Better Teachers, Better Schools: The Center for Education Renewal

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Which comes first: Better schools or better teacher education programs?

Both, answers UW education professor John I. Goodlad. He believes that both of those goals must be addressed simultaneously. Goodlad and colleagues Roger Soder and Kenneth Sirotnik in the UW College of Education have established and sustained what is considered to be one of the most effective movements for the simultaneous renewal of teacher education and public schools in the U.S.

Founded in 1985, the Center for Educational Renewal was the outgrowth of two projects in the 1970s and early 1980s conducted by Goodlad and Sirotnik: A Study of Educational Change and School Improvement, and A Study of Schooling. These studies and work by others identified the lack of a connection between the reform of the nation's schools and the revitalization of the programs that educate teachers.

Upon founding the Center, Goodlad and colleagues embarked upon the Study of the Education of Educators (SEE) in the U.S. That national and comprehensive effort resulted in the assessment of existing programs at 29 selected institutions. The study identified 19 essential conditions for a good teacher education program, and put forth a roadmap for getting from where schools are now to where they ought to be. The assessment, conditions, and strategy were reported in Goodlad's book, Teachers for Our Nation's Schools, published in 1990.

[Map of the National Network for Educational Renewal]
Map of the National Network for Educational Renewal

Goodlad and colleagues take as a starting point for their work that the purpose of schools is to equip young people to live and work in a democracy. "It's hard to talk about being satisfied or dissatisfied with schools and teacher education without starting at the beginning," they note. "We have to begin with a sense of what schools are for--and thus, what teachers should do in schools, and therefore how teachers should be educated."

"We can all agree that the American democracy can only survive if we are a productive nation. But we are on dangerous ground if we think the purpose of schools is to produce docile, unquestioning workers," they assert. At the Center for Educational Renewal, researchers believe that all people, by virtue of being human, have a right to an education. Education is beneficial in and of itself. Schools serve society, they contend, by teaching young people their moral and intellectual responsibilities for living and working in a democracy.footnote 1 Therefore, "all aspects of [teacher] preparation programs, from mission to evaluation, must be driven by a conception of the role of schools in a democratic society and by the requirements this conception imposes on teachers for educating all children for responsible, satisfying citizenship," writes Goodlad.footnote 2

Findings of the SEE reported in 1990 have important implications for the renewal of schools and teacher education. First, notes Goodlad, although school renewal efforts often demand a high level of collegiality among practicing teachers, their preparation programs in the university tended to foster social, intellectual, and professional isolation. Second, changes in higher education, including the decline of teaching in favor of research, have lowered the status of teacher education. Third, the researchers found significant disjunctures between teacher education programs and the arts and sciences programs, and between the campus-based portion and the school-based portion of teacher education. Furthermore, teacher preparation focused on classrooms, but scarcely at all on schools. Finally, the researchers found that preparation in the history, philosophy, and social foundations of education has eroded. "When they are not optional, foundational studies have often been watered down, and major (often controversial) issues have been given only casual treatment," writes Goodlad.footnote 2 The renewal strategy developed by Goodlad and colleagues attempts to address these issues.

The researchers hypothesized that school-university partnerships, properly conceived and conducted, held promise for the renewal of both schooling and the education of educators. Goodlad, Sirotnik, and Soder set out to study that question; by 1987, the Center for Educational Renewal had become the hub for 14 such partnerships comprising the National Network for Educational Renewal. Today, some 16 settings in fourteen states are involved in the effort. Each setting consists of one or more institutions of higher education working in close collaboration with one or more school districts and one or more partner schools within each district. In total, some 34 colleges and universities, over 100 school districts, and more than 400 partner schools participate in the Network. They are working to implement the strategy for simultaneous renewal, focusing on the direct involvement of arts/sciences faculty in the general education of future teachers, and in working directly with the partner schools.

  1. "Better Teachers, Better Schools," brochure of the Center for Educational Renewal, College of Education, Box 353600, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3600.
  2. "Studying the Education of Educators: From Conception to Findings," John I. Goodlad, Phi Delta Kappan, May 1990, pp. 699, 701.

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