BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo Graduate School of
Education Dean Mary H. Gresham said today that critics of
universities that train teachers shouldn't assume that schools of
education are the reason for poor student achievement in our
nation's elementary and secondary schools.
Instead, she said that critics would help students more by
launching a careful examination of these programs' strengths and
At issue is Tuesday's vote by the New York State Board of
Regents approving a pilot program that would allow so-called
alternative teacher-training organizations to create their own
master's degree programs, which students must finish before they
are certified as teachers. Master's degree programs have
traditionally been reserved for education schools at colleges and
"As several other experts have noted," Gresham says, "to blame
schools of education for the failure of public education is as
untenable as blaming schools of management for the sins of Wall
"Rather than make sweeping pronouncements that are critical of
teacher preparation, as if each school of education is the same, it
would be extremely useful for policy-makers to actually find out
what we are doing to prepare teachers," Gresham says.
Critics are trying to expand the reach of alternative programs
such as Teach for America, which puts recent college graduates into
teaching jobs without previous teaching experience or education
coursework, often in some of the country's toughest schools. Teach
for America has recently announced its intention to begin its own
master's degree program to train prospective teachers.
The unanimously approved Regents pilot will invite groups such
as Teach for America to create their own master's programs. The
programs would require a strong emphasis on practical teaching
skills, addressing criticism that traditional education schools
spend unnecessary time on theory, rather than preparing students
better for their real-life challenges in the classroom.
Gresham points out that many critics of public education
belittle schools of education at colleges and universities often
without understanding the university curriculum.
"Most schools of education have clinically rich programs that
require both theoretical and applied experiences and proficiencies
before granting a teaching credential, because we believe that
there is no substitute for the classroom experience," Gresham
In addition, she says, critics who hold traditional schools of
education responsible for the failures of student achievement in
grades K through 12 are overlooking many factors that contribute to
poor student achievement.
"While teacher quality is a necessary condition for student
achievement, to focus solely on teacher preparation is to ignore
the ecological realities that must be dealt with in order to create
conditions for student success," Gresham says. "There are multiple
reasons for the failures of public education. Graduate study for
educators deepens the knowledge base that is critical for teachers
who must manage a complex environment."
Gresham and others from UB's Graduate School of Education are
available for interviews regarding this week's New York State Board
of Regents' vote.
UB's Graduate School of Education recently moved up 15 spots to
No. 56 in U.S. News and World Report magazine survey, putting UB in
the top 20 percent of all schools of education ranked in the
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.