Promise and Teacher Prep not connected

Yale’s teacher preparatory programs are ending this June, but Yale College Dean Mary Miller said their demise is not connected to the New Haven Promise.

Though the end of the Teacher Preparation and Education Studies Program and the New Haven Promise, a new program providing college scholarships to New Haven Public School students were both recently announced, though Miller said the timing was “coincidental.” She added that she had not even heard of the Promise until just days before it was announced. Miller said the Dean’s Office decided to cut the Teacher Preparation Program because many students are pursuing careers in education through other avenues, but faculty associated with the program said they are disappointed that they are losing a substantial part of the program.

“The implicit message is that Yale and its students shouldn’t be wasting their time on teaching,” said Carla Horwitz, who has directed Yale’s early childhood education program since 1999, adding that there is a there is a negative stigma associated with teaching in the United States in general and at Yale.

Robert Wyman, who chairs the standing committee that oversees the Teacher Preparation Program, said the Dean’s Office did not consult him about eliminating the program. Wyman said he wishes he could have weighed in on their decision, but he added that he understands that it is expensive to sponsor students’ certification, which requires one-on-one instruction and mentoring from both Yale faculty and New Haven teachers. Currently, the program consists of early childhood, elementary and secondary education programs, with certification available for those studying early childhood and secondary education.

Courses that guide undergraduates through the teacher certification process —and all courses associated with the masters degree in urban education — will be cut, Miller said. Some courses will remain available under the heading “Education Studies” to help students determine if they want to enter the teaching profession.

Wyman said the Teacher Preparation Program courses that remain might suffer because program instructors now have less incentive to stay at Yale.

“To keep the staff when they have fewer resources is going to be problematic,” he said. “People of the quality we have are offered good jobs all the time.”

Miller said the masters degree in urban education studies will also be cut — since Yale does not have a school of education, Miller said, the masters program lacks a greater framework.

About 18 to 25 juniors sign up for a two-year undergraduate teacher preparation program each year, said program director Jack Gillette GRD ’85, but only a fraction of those students are on a “certification track.” Last year, Gillette said, three students were certified, and this year, none will be certified.

Kaitlyn Newell ’12, who is not on the certification track, said she is upset that she will get to complete only half of the two-year program.

She and two other juniors in the program will hold an event Thurday night to raise awareness about the elimination of the Teacher Preparation Program and to explore ways that juniors could potentially complete the program. Newell said this meeting will set the stage for a larger effort.

“I feel very unsupported by Yale,” she said. “One of the career paths I’m interested in is no longer being offered.”

Teacher Preparation Program administrators said few students pursue certification because the requirements are demanding, and can limit a student’s academic freedom. Students must spend about six hours per day teaching in a classroom each weekday during one semester of the two-year undergraduate program, Horwitz said.

Deborah Garcia ’11, who is in the elementary education program, said in an e-mail Wednesday she finds her coursework rewarding even though she is not pursuing a certificate.

“Many of the classes I’ve taken have been truly eye-opening,” she said, “providing a context for understanding education in America as well as providing opportunities for undergrads to work in local schools.”

But Olga Pagan ’10, who took part in the program but chose not to pursue certification, said she was unimpressed by the scope of the program, adding that there were not enough courses that were relevant to her particular interests.

Though few students participate in the Teacher Preparation Program, Miller said, Yalies’ interest in education is at an all-time high. Miller pointed to student participation in Teach for America, which was the top employer of graduates in the class of 2009, as evidence.

“It’s really clear that Teach for America is the number one gateway for students to enter the teaching profession,” she said, later adding that the University “follow[s] the decisions that Yale students have already made.”

But Horwitz and Wyman said Teach for America is no substitute for the Teacher Preparation Program. Teach for America’s teachers are not fully prepared to work with students, they said. Wyman compared the experience of teaching in a classroom after five weeks of training to “trying to be a doctor without medical school.”

Gillette said the masters program in urban education, established in 2006, was designed to educate aspiring teachers in a small, intensive setting. Masters candidates sign two-year contracts to teach in the New Haven Public School system upon completing their degrees, Gillette said, and 14 of the 20 students to graduate from the program are still teaching in New Haven Public Schools.

The University currently funds each masters student’s course of study and pays an additional $26,000 stipend, according to the Teacher Preparation Program’s website.

Comments

  • penny_lane

    The one Teacher Prep class I took was a joke: completely lacking in rigor and grading standards (the easiest A I got at Yale), and presenting highly outdated theoretical material as fact. I enjoyed the practicum, but I could have gotten that experience simply by volunteering.

    I agree with Horowitz’s assessment that there is stigma against teaching in general and especially at Yale. I also tend to agree that the assumption that one can be a competent teacher (especially with children younger than 15) without a couple years of rigorous training means that many teachers enter classrooms underprepared.

    It doesn’t change the fact that the Teacher Prep program as it stood was insufficient and not up to the standards an Ivy League school should hold for itself. Any juniors upset about this should simply major in the area they hope to teach, and take psych (NOT teacher prep) courses on learning and development.

  • River Tam

    Psych courses were the easiest three A’s I’ve gotten at Yale.

  • y10br

    Concur with River Tam. Seriously, the TPrep courses that corresponded with Psych were always jokes. I avoided them like the plague, but had to for certification, so I got the plague. The methods and theory classes in TPrep are fantastic. It’s a disgrace that Yale is destroying the department.

    TFA is not a substitute for good teacher preparation. But hey, who cares?

  • River Tam

    Yalies are arrogant enough to believe that they can go into classrooms with no teaching experience and be as effective teachers as those who have had specialized training.

    Ask any TFA kid. They are shocked by how unprepared they are for teaching.

    It’s like expecting a physics major to design bridges. In theory, you can do it. In practice, you have no clue where to start.

  • penny_lane

    Frank Keil’s dev psych course is extremely rigorous for a survey class (probably the only psych course I took that wasn’t an easy A), and can provide a basis of knowledge in child development that any teacher would find extremely valuable. Most teachers I’ve met, including Carla Horwitz, think Piaget is the end-all-be-all of child development, but Keil provides a much more comprehensive, current and science-based perspective on the topic. It’s not a TPrep class, but it should have been.

    Also, River Tam, which psych courses did you take? Most survey/lower level courses are going to be easy, but if they’re well taught they can still be good classes. Yale’s strongest areas of psych are clinical, cognitive and developmental. If you stick to those areas and avoid anything cross-listed with CHLD, you should be okay.