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Posted on Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

University of Michigan revamping the way it trains future teachers

By David Jesse


University of Michigan seniors Kent Sparks and Bridgit DeCarlo talk about a recent teaching assignment with instructors (from right): Tuf Francis, Michelle Nguyen, Enid Rosario-Ramos and Darin Stockdill while a video of the assignment plays behind them. David Jesse |

Two years.

That’s all the time that professors and instructors at the University of Michigan’s School of Education have to turn students into competent teachers.

“This is almost the premature gestation of a professional,” said Bob Bain, an associate professor in the school. “I don’t think the public understands how complicated teaching is and how much goes into it.

“We’ve found that we need to be way more intentional about preparing a teacher to be in the classroom.”

That intentional effort has led to an overhaul in how the school teaches teachers, an effort that has placed U-M at the forefront of the growing movement to change teacher education.

The overhaul has led to changes in everything from curriculum at the school to a change in what U-M calls the students it sends out into classrooms. Out are “student teachers.” In are “teacher interns.”

“There’s a lot that goes into teaching beyond just knowing the content,” said Deborah Lowenberg Ball, the dean of the School of Education. “We’re really focusing on building those skills.

“If you’re going to be a good teacher, you need to know the content very well. You need to know the math, the English, but you also need to know how to talk to a (student), how to manage a classroom.”

Laurie Sleep, the associate chairwoman of the elementary teacher education program, puts it slightly differently.

“You may know math, but do you know how to teach math?” she said. “We’re really working to better integrate the teaching part into what we are teaching (our students).”

In many ways, the teacher education program is shifting to be more along the lines of medical training, working on “clinical skills” and sending students out on “rounds” in area classrooms, U-M officials said. The changes are also a key part of the Mitchell/Scarlett University of Michigan partnership in the Ann Arbor school district. The program will pair teacher candidates at U-M with teachers at Mitchell Elementary School and Scarlett Middle School with the goal of building teaching skills and improving student achievement.

Elementary teacher training

Practice, practice, practice followed by a lot of review is how those in charge of teaching future elementary school teachers describe the new program.

The university started rolling out the changes this fall and plans to have the completed program in place for students who enroll in the fall of 2012.

Much of traditional teacher education focuses on having students talk about teaching, read about teaching or write about teaching, Elizabeth Davis, the chairwoman of the elementary teacher education program said.

“We want to have a deliberate focus on practice,” Davis said. “We want to have our interns learn how to do the work of teaching.”

The students start with basic teaching skills, like how to write on a board.

It’s a simple sounding thing to do, Davis said. But it’s not.

How do you keep control of the classroom while writing? How do you decide what parts of the student’s response to record on the board? How do you drive the conversation towards the learning you want students to accomplish?

Students build on their skills throughout their time in the program, Davis said.

So, for example, students may start in a U-M classroom, role-playing how to ask students a question about differences between night and day. Then, they’ll move onto a small group of elementary school students and ask the same question in a classroom. Then they’ll move on to a one-on-one conversation with a student. Then, they’ll work on lesson planning and delivery of the topic for a whole classroom.

Along the way, they’ll be videotaped and observed by both U-M professors and veteran teachers who will then give feedback.

“We’re working on putting the pieces together,” Davis said. “Being a good teacher is very complex. We want to give the interns as much practice as we can so they can learn the high leverage skills that we’ve learned through research that good teachers have.”

Secondary teacher training

One of the problems with traditional teacher education is that future teachers learn the content in one class, how to teach in another class and then go to a third place, a classroom in the real world, to put it all together, Bain said.

That leaves it up to the prospective teachers to put it all together, said Elizabeth Birr Moje, a professor in the School of Education and the associate dean for research for the school.

There wasn’t a lot of putting it all together, Moje said.

“We wanted to find ways to bridge gaps,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of time. It’s all about coherence.”

So the school of education is borrowing terminology and strategies from the medical school. Out is the terminology of student teacher. In is teacher intern. In is attending teacher. And in is the concept of rounds.

In the first semester of the program, U-M students travel in groups of four to schools, spending four weeks each in three schools — including an urban high school and a suburban high school. They’ll work with different attending teachers at each stop, allowing them to pick up strategies from the experienced teachers. At the same time, they’ll be in a U-M classroom learning concepts and practicing.

In the second semester, they’ll travel in groups of three teacher interns to two schools — one an exurban middle school and one an independent school like Greenhills in Ann Arbor.

Then, in the third semester, the teaching interns will have a more traditional student teaching semester.

Again, the focus is on building the teaching skills of the student.

A national focus

Reforming the teaching of teachers has been a national topic in recent months. It was the focus of stinging rebuke of the nation’s teacher’s education schools by Education Secretary Arne Duncan in late 2009.

“By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” Duncan said in a speech at Teachers College, Columbia University, on Oct. 22, 2009. “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change — not evolutionary tinkering.”

Much of the conversation nationally about producing higher quality teachers has focused on alternative programs such as Teach for America.

But, Duncan pointed out, about 10,000 new teachers a year come from those programs while more traditional schools of education pump out about 220,000 graduates a year.

“To keep America competitive, and to make the American dream of equal educational opportunity a reality, we need to recruit, reward, train, learn from, and honor a new generation of talented teachers,” Duncan said. “But the bar must be raised for successful teacher preparation programs because we ask much more of teachers today than even a decade ago.”

In his speech, Duncan included U-M as one of the few places trying to reform teacher education.

“In the end, I don't think the ingredients of a good teacher preparation are much of a mystery anymore. Our best programs are coherent, up-to-date, research-based, and provide students with subject mastery. They have a strong and substantial field-based program in local public schools that drives much of the course work in classroom management and student learning and prepares students to teach diverse pupils in high-needs settings.”

David Jesse covers higher education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

Here we go again someone who thinks that the only way to improve teachers is to eliminate the unions! Wow, if schools were given $ every time someone spewed this pearl of insane wisdom then they wouldn't be bleeding money that the state is constantly taking from them to pay their bills, because then they could actually pay for.....low class size, full-time counselors, full-time librarians, full-time gym teachers, full-time nurses, full-time music/art teachers, paper to print a paper-driven curriculum and testing practice frenzy, adequate heating/cooling, quality preschool for all children, full-time kindergarten in a state where kindergarten is not required, home visits by the school, truant officers for absent students, custodians to clean the buildings, bus drivers, english language teachers, special education teachers/classrooms for students, parent education for parents who don't help their children with homework, services for parents who can't feed their children, services for children whose parents refuse to medicate their children for medical issues or discipline their children for inappropriate behaviors, etc... oops! I forgot my Dad was a teacher and I know all about teaching and I use the comment section to vilify a profession I only know about through one person's experience. By the way, I can see Alaska from my house and I'm qualified to be President of the United States of America. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones at a profession they don't have a clue about, the lives of the many students who attend schools, or assume that the unions is the root cause of all that is bad. Get off that throne of self-importance by contacting your Senator, Representative and Governor to support good public schools, the students and the teachers by adequately funding public schools, mandating Kindergarten for all children in the state/country, going to a county-wide school system thereby eliminating these multiple school districts, charter schools that don't follow the same rules as public schools, etc....


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

I taught in Michigan public schools for five years. Toughest job I ever had. Best insurance I ever had. I thought MEA was a professional association, but learned that it's a union. The teachers union may have done a lot of good in the past, but makes it nearly impossible to get rid of a bad teacher. That hampers student learning. Teachers need to be paid well for going a good job and paid poorly for doing a poor job. But teacher contracts prohibit merit pay. The problem is, how do you measure teaching success? It's necessarily subjective, and that's what teachers are afraid of. I applaud the efforts to improve teacher training. Had I been better prepared, I'd probably still be teaching. I didn't go to U-M, but it sounds like they're heading in the right direction with the teacher-training reforms mentioned in the article.


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

Yeah, Eastern's been doing this for years. I have friends that have had student teachers from U of M and they are simply not prepared for their student teacher experience. (I've only accepted student teachers from Eastern because of this.) Good for U of M for recognizing that they need to focus on this. Now they need to teach their education students that as a new teacher they will not be teaching AP/accelerated classes. As a newbie they will be working with lower levels, and with many special education students mixed throughtout their classloads.


Sun, Jan 2, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

Jay Thomas, what is your proof for such a statement?


Sun, Jan 2, 2011 : 10:29 a.m.

How to write on a chalkboard? I haven't used my "chalkboard" for years! We have "whiteboards" and most of us use projection systems so that we are not turning away from our students at all. Technology has opened new doors for educating students. I do agree that getting interns into classrooms is what will ultimately make better teachers. Every school has content and curriculum but if you can't manage and interact well with students it won't matter how well you know your content. Teachers must be creative and be willing to step out of the textbook "box" that so many feel is teaching. It's not just putting a textbook in the hands of students, telling them to read the chapter and then giving them a test on the material. (Unfortunately, some never understand this even with experience!) The flair and talents of the teacher are what create magic in the classroom not textbooks and chalkboards.


Sat, Jan 1, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

If the focus is on UDL than all students who are taught by the UM graduates will benefit.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 8:22 p.m.

Unions exist to defend the worst of their membership... not the best.


Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 4:31 p.m.

Tom. You are clearly confused. Your link leads to undergraduate teaching schools, not schools of education. Michigan State University, according to US News, is ranked #1 in the nation in both elementary and secondary education at the undergraduate level. By the way, I feel such rankings have no validity. I'm only mentioning it to avoid confusion.


Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

@Tom, those rankings in US News and World report are a joke. Who do you think picks those programs? Faculty at current teacher education schools, current students and alumni. So of course they are going to pick their own schools as wonderful. What are the true measures of how "good" a program is? That stuff is pretty much a PR exercise/beauty contest, nothing meaningful. What is promising is that they are finally recognizing the flaws and looking to make changes, give them credit for that, and yes, UM was also mentioned favorably in the NY Times article. But they need to move faster and more drastically, just MHO.


Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

I would like to comment on the main topic of this excellent article. As a cooperating teacher, I believe that my (low income, high needs) students have benefitted from the changes taking place in the UM School of Education. Yes, they focus on theory - as a foundation for practice. Yes, they are well versed in their subject matter even though they could look it up on a computer. Even in a 21st century classroom, a teacher should have a broad and comprehensive knowledge base. Candidates now spend their entire senior year with one classroom engaging in learning and practicing the fine art of teaching. They bring with them a variety of experiences gleaned from prior semesters of in-classroom work, simulated practice, in depth study and lengthy discussion. UM works very hard to help make the art and practice of good teaching transparent to students so they can replicate it in their own teaching. I believe that the positive changes occurring in UMs School of Education will soon make it a 21st century model for universities around the country.


Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

@LGChelsea - I have been on many interview committees over the last 7-8 years here in AA, and I have not seen ANY evidence of video teaching samples or teachers doing a lesson for the interview process. Only once did a candidate for a specialized TC position (behaviorally trained for ASD students) bring in a video sample which she showed to us on her own laptop computer - so it wasn't asked for, but she brought it to illustrate her teaching, which was great. In this day and age it should be a REQUIREMENT.


Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 10:26 a.m.

Hilton, as someone familiar with some of the changes, rest assured that your assumption that teachers are learning how to teach like they did in the industrial age is wrong.


Fri, Dec 31, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

@mmppcc. You just made my point. It is all about what one values. I simply disagree with you on that.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:18 p.m.

I find it interesting that the school is not focused on changing "how" teachers teach in elementary and high schools, rather the school seems to be training them to teach the same as we have been doing since the industrial age. Face to Face, focus on the individual teacher as the holder of all knowledge (I'm not sure every 5th grade teacher should be teaching fractions to my kids or explaining continental drift), seems crazy given that we live in a digital age where experts are merely an iChat away. Why not train teachers to teach to students who are living and will be working in the iChat world? From the quote in the article I think Duncan is saying that we need to change "how" we teach our students, not necessarily make new training to do the same old stuff that is outdated.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:08 p.m.

"If you don't want people to "diss" your profession, don't "diss" theirs." That kind of sums up this whole thread. People "diss" teachers, teachers"diss" back and we've all wasted too much time reading this thread.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:47 p.m.

@mmppcc - You may be a teacher, but you definitely have never done plumbing for a living. Estimating, ordering, stocking, learning the new piping materials and how to use them, inspection, repair, diagnostics, call outs at 2AM, and more. Yes, plumbers make good money, so should teachers. Both professions have really good folks and some not so good folks. They take it home, truck, beeper and all. Most teachers don't get called out at 2AM 3 or 4 nights a week to deal with broken pipes in freezing weather or basements full of water and electrical wiring in the middle of a thunderstorm. If you don't want people to "diss" your profession, don't "diss" theirs.

Mich Res and Alum

Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:08 p.m.

As a current School of Ed student, let me point out a few things: 1: Michigan ranks as the best undergraduate education school in the state, according to US News and World Report (tied for 8th nationally). 2: In the state of Michigan, there are 32 institutions that are certified to produce teachers in the state. Michigan is one, obviously. Of these 32 there are 5 that are "At-risk" or "Low-performing." From 2008: Michigan is "tied for second" with six other schools (all small schools) in the overall ranking by the Board of Ed. They only lose points in "Supervisor Ratings" whatever that is. UM is the top ranking school in the state when it comes to student-teacher's scores on content area tests. For some reason, UM's 98% MTTC passing is worth the same as Andrews' (the only school receiving a perfect 70) 90%. So the point of that is to show that Michigan never had a "bad" Ed program, let alone the "worst in the state." Also, the talks of the UM programs being "too theory based" are ridiculous. Do UM courses focus a lot on theory? Yes, some do. Some use theory as the basis for their focus on practice. And then you get all the time and experience in your placement to work with mentor teachers and other teachers to learn more practical things. Some of the students who complain about the theory don't realize that you're going to a high school like Huron to learn that practical stuff, not just sit in the classroom and check your email.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

U of m program has been known to be very theory based which is different from EMU. EMU requires a ton of classroom observation even before starting student teaching. I like what UofM has started, but in any profession, experience is the key. The more future teachers can be in the classroom, the better off they will be in the long run. And those that can get involved in coaching or working summer camps are even better off. Anytime you can get in front of kids is a good thing for future teachers.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 4:43 p.m.

I encourage all to read "The Myth of Charter Schools," by Diane Ravitch: Her main suggestion for improving schools (although she points out that things aren't as bad as privatization pundits make it seem) is to improve teacher preparation, as Finland did. There is nothing wrong with the information in Lemov's book, but it presents nothing new, either. It's a repackaging of ideas that have long been out there. So many books out there promise the tools for becoming an effective teacher.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

@speechless...You said it best. I completely agree. Thank you.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 3:02 p.m.

"... I am always amazed at the vitriol spewed in the comment section especially when it comes to the subject of teachers. With few unions remaining, the anger of the right has now directed itself at teacher unions...." Without wishing to sound critical, you shouldn't be the least bit amazed. Demonizing public school teachers is a very, very important cause for the corporate-financed right wing. It's a conscious campaign carried out with as much extreme prejudice as the political and social environment will tolerate. Vile commentary, character smears, and unapologetic disinformation are all welcome tactics in service of bringing down Michigan's last remaining strong statewide union. (The UAW in Michigan is a shell of its former self, at best.) It's all about driving down the cost of paid labor by any means that works. Rather than constructively discuss how to improve teachers unions, or how to develop greater collaboration among MEA locals, school parents and school boards, the corporate right and their tea-slurping flunkies typically succeed in quickly hijacking such conversations. Instead, the topic becomes whether teachers really deserve a middle class income, or whether they should even be denied the democratic freedom to organize. As can be seen, that's become true here, as well. Why should this become yet another forum for bashing people who do real work for a living? The report above indicates that a very positive sea change may be in progress. A major upgrade in U-M's teacher training has been decades overdue. The Big U's education school has long been regarded as a joke in terms of practical preparation, and was considered useful mainly for supplying a piece of paper that allowed graduates to proceed to the next level in their education careers. Previously, these graduates had to get their 'real training' somewhere else, usually on the job, but thankfully that may be changing.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 2:36 p.m.

Sh1 My apologies for identifying the wrong teacher's union


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 2:35 p.m.

U of M was theory in a lot of the courses I took there. I have heard from others that the School of Ed is very bogged down in theory. i don't think the new model is going to change things. There is no mention of preparing students to deal with the parents of children, their co-workers and the administration. Handling those situations properly can keep you on task towards being focused when you are in the classroom. I also find it funny that people are ok electing a representative to be the person who bargains for their respective district and divvies up their tax money in their local, state and federal government, but you can't have a business representative do collective bargaining when it comes to employment agreements.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

@braggslaw: check your facts; Detroit teachers are not part of the MEA. I wonder if you might have gotten anything else wrong....


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

Babmay11: Re: best practice. In Ann Arbor and most surrounding districts, it is policy to require a teaching candidate to teach a lesson, present a video tape of their teaching style, or both, along with interviewing with staff, parent, community and student representatives. Many districts require more.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 1:16 p.m.

Consider the states that disallow unions. My niece moved to Texas when her husband was transferred. When she interviewed for several teaching positions, she was asked (illegally) in several interviews, when she planned on starting a family. She was not prepared for this and felt if she didn't answer or didn't lie, she would not get the job. She finally did get a job and, when meeting informally with the staff, she was asked what church she attended. Alarmed, she said that they hadn't found one yet. She noticed staff exchanging glances. After the first weekend, several teachers mentioned to her that they had not seen her in church the past Sunday. Before long, she and her husband realized that the majority of the town attended the very conservative Baptist church, which they had no intention of attending. The nearest Lutheran church, (ELCA) 30 miles away, was their church of choice, the church they attended up north. A month into the school year, the principal asked to speak to her. During a meeting of just the two of them, she was told that the community in which she taught attended the Baptist church, which shared the values of teaching staff and community members. She also learned that the church and schools were intertwined in all community affairs. At that point, she knew that she was being pressured to not only attend, but join, the Baptist church of the principal's choice. Staff began to exclude her from social conversations or activities outside the school, which she wasn't interested in anyway. Recognizing that, without a union, she had no protection and she could be fired at will. Before she allowed that to happen, she resigned. Do you think this is unusual? NO, it is not. She has since talked to numerous people in large and small towns and found that this is "the way of the land". Texas is not alone in requiring teachers to "toe the line" and behave according to the mostly male administrators' dictates. School boards are just as culpable in their demands of their employees. And, braggslaw, we don't need unions why?? By the way, Texas is the same state that rewrote history in textbooks to reflect one deciding state board members' views. (Many people, however, strongly agree with this rewrite). Doesn't this absolutely scare you? Or does this sort of indoctrination seem alright with you?


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 1:13 p.m.

@LAEL: I read the New York Times article that features Doug Lemov. Later in the article, it talks a lot about the dean at the University of Michigan's school of education and the reform and improvement of the teacher education program at UM.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

It is a pity... and a pity for millions more. Parents and their children deserve better than to be used as income generators for teacher's unions.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

Every person has a right to their opinion. Opinions that are based on personal circumstances. For those who want me to believe that they are driven by the public good... I don't believe you. When a person argues public good they usually are arguing for their own personal interests regardless of the outcome (good or bad). This all boils down to a parent wanting the best choices for his kid versus teachers unions wanting to make choices for kids based on job security, pensions, and medical car.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

I am always amazed at the vitriol spewed in the comment section especially when it comes to the subject of teachers. With few unions remaining, the anger of the right has now directed itself at teacher unions. I trained to be a teacher. No accountability? There are the students, the parents, the administration and yourself. One stands before a group of people and has the resposibility of imparting knowledge and believe me if you make one mistake someone like Braggslaw will tell their parents, other teachers or someone in the administration and insure that you are held accountable. Some people have an innate ability to teach and some do not. It is complicated. I must admit it was too tough for me. I went back to school in accounting.

David Jesse

Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 12:13 p.m.

FYI - U-M contacted me to let me know that they call their students "teacher interns" not "student interns." The correction has been made in the story.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

Interesting observation: which side of the trough.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

No Shock Ghost and I will always disagree. we are on different sides of the public trough. I pay in he takes out. The interesting thing is that Snyder has a shot to make a change (in my opinion a good thing). We can see the issues and results unroll before us.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.

One more specific issue that bothers me so much - ALL teachers should be learning how to assess kids skills so that they can see when kids are not getting it, and then they need to be able to adapt curriculum for the kids that are struggling. That is the way the world is going, with Response to Intervention (RTI) and inclusion of differently abled kids. There are proven ways to differentiate instruction for the range of the abilities in the classroom, and again, the school of education seem to spend very little time on this specific set of skills. They really seem to stress the wrong things - someething I noticed in the interviews I have participated on, the education students put together a portfolio, which is basically a glorified scrapbook. It doesn't really give you any information about whether a teacher understands how to teach. I think the schools ought to have all candidates bring a video teaching sample, showing the teacher in action. I'd love to also see the school have the candidates teach a lesson to a group of students as part of the interview criteria,, too. I don't feel the interview process is very stringent, and doesn't show you the qualities that make a good teacher, although that can be somewhat elusive. But seeing someone in action, through both videos and live teaching, would definitely help pick the best candidates.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

The Times article is very instructive. Teachers need to learn organization and how to take quick data on their students, what is working and what is not, and adjust their teaching accordingly. This is not taught at all. They also need to systematically use positive reinforcement - and I am not talking about tangible rewards, though they have their place. Understanding how to engage students is important and there is a way to do it systematically. It is too bad the ed schools do not teach behavior management, classroom management, positive reinforcement, shaping etc. These techniques are invaluable and good teachers do them instinctively, but it can be taught. There are also proven methods to teach reading and math, and education students seem not to be getting these. They are not taught specific curriculum either, then the school district has to pay to train them. The schools of ed do not seem to use research based methodologies, but broad philosophical ideas which do not help when you are plopped down into a classroom. I have been on quite a few interview committees for special education teachers, and I am amazed how little they seem to know about specific curriculum and methods to teach and manage kids' behavior, how unprepared they seem to have their own classrooms and hit the ground running. It's a terrible shame and it hurts the students too. I also think one semester of student teaching is not nearly enough. MSU has their students do a whole year, and I think that would be a big step forward. But the student teaching also needs to have a lot of observation and feedback on specifics on how to improve - again a DATA based improvement feedback loop. This would improve the new teachers' skills a lot. It does seem like MSU has innovate much more than UM, hopefully some of these techniques will be put into place.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 11:09 a.m.

@aareader and others... Teaching doesn't have to be just an "art". This educator, Doug Lemov, shows that there are specific techniques a teacher can use to engage students and improve their academic performance.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 11:02 a.m.

In the current issue of the prestigious American Journal of Political Science, an article from Terry Moe, who is William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. Translation: heavyweight research from a heavyweight scholar. Peer reviewed. Students of American politics rarely study public sector unions and their impacts on government. The literature sees bureaucratic power as rooted in expertise, but largely ignores the fact that bureaucrats often join unions to promote their own interests, and that the power of their unions may affect government and its performance. This article focuses on the public schools, which are among the most numerous government agencies in the country, and investigates whether collective bargaining by teachersthe key bureaucratsaffects the schools capacity to educate children. Using California data, analysis shows that, in large school districts, restrictive labor contracts have a very negative impact on academic achievement, particularly for minority students. The evidence suggests, then, that public sector unions do indeed have important consequences for American public education. Good scholars dont just dump data into top journals without an explanation of the theory that led them to expect the results they got (or in rare cases, another result), and Moe lays out his expectations early in the article: The unions use their powertheir basic work-denial power, enhanced by their political powerto get restrictive rules written into collective bargaining contracts. And these restrictions ensure that the public schools are literally not organized to promote academic achievement. When contract rules make it difficult or impossible to weed out mediocre teachers, for example, they undermine the most important determinant of student learning: teacher quality (Sanders and Rivers 1996). And when contract rules guarantee teachers seniority-based transfer rights, they ensure that teachers cannot be allocated to their most productive uses (Levin, Mulhern, and Schunck 2005). Much the same can be said about a long list of standard contract provisions. This is to be expected. Except at the margins, contract rules are simply not intended to make the schools effective. Moes dependent variable (what he is explaining) is something called the API, which is derived from student test scores. The higher the API, the higher the test scores. There are always methodological issues with an analysis of this sort. We might wonder, for example, whether heavily black districts with a lot of Democratic voters elect liberal school boards that readily cave in to the teachers union. But those districts might have kids that perform poorly for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of schooling. Moe deals with these issues decisively -- controlling for minority population in each district, as well as a host of other variables. Bottom line: both at the elementary and the secondary levels, restrictive union contracts harm student achievement. When Moe breaks down his results, some complication enters. Restrictive union rules seem to hurt more in large school districts, and in districts with a large minority population. But of course, these are the districts most at risk. Unionization, in other words, hurts most in the places where conditions are already worst. This study, in a way, is a follow-up to a 1990 study (Politics, Markets, and Americas Schools) in which John Chubb and Moe showed that private schools are better organized to educate kids than public schools. In that study they stressed the role of unions doing the same things they have done to kill the auto industry introducing rigidity in how things are organized and promoting a then versus us mentality among the workers. Quite simply: your pro-union liberal friends ought to be ashamed of themselves. Dont look for them to repent anytime soon, however. Unions and particularly the teachers union are their political allies


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 11 a.m.

The following book is very interesting: The War Against Hope: How Teachers' Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education. Rod Paige (Thomas Nelson). "How do teachers' unions stifle school reform? Rod Paige counts the ways: they refuse to allow great teachers to receive higher pay; they prevent incompetent teachers from being fired; they pressure maverick teachers to stop doing things differently; they fight to ensure that teachers are not evaluated by supervisors or by using test-score data; they don't want parents to choose their children's schools; they don't want children to be allowed to leave failing schools; they attack charter schools; and they rally to ensure that school board elections are won by those who share their views. Paige, former U.S. secretary of education and superintendent of schools in Houston, pulls no punches in this book. He seeks to unmask the goals and actions of teachers' unions in an effort to demonstrate that the unions are the biggest reason why our education system produces such disappointing results. (Not much attention is paid in this book to other obstacles to change.) But since unions are just doing their job by taking care of their own interests, Paige writes, it is up to the rest of us--parents, school boards, state school chiefs, think tanks, institutions of higher education, journalists, and Congress--to challenge them when necessary. Unions will only change when we force them to, and Paige aims to show readers how to make that happen."


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

I thought this was an interesting article on the MEA in Detroit and the effect it had on the governor (a democratic shill). too bad the kids were hosed by the union and the governor. by Ed Brayton Over the last few years, a bizarre situation has been going on here in Michigan. In 2003, a philanthropist named Robert Thompson offered to spend $200 million to build 15 charter schools in the city of Detroit, each serving 500 students, with a guarantee that each one would graduate at least 90% of its students. That plan required approval of the state legislature and in late 2003 they had reached a deal to pass a bill that allowed this to happen, but the Detroit teacher's union called a one-day strike and marched on the state capitol to protest this plan. As a result, the Detroit mayor and Governor Granholm both pulled their support of the bill and it collapsed. Detroit public schools are among the worst imaginable. Jack McHugh of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy gives some of the shocking facts, quoting the Standard and Poor's School Evaluation Service report on Detroit schools: "Detroit Public Schools generates well below-average student results with well above-average spending per student. Statewide, only 2.3 percent of Michigan's school districts report a smaller proportion of MEAP test scores that meet or exceed state standards. Statewide, only 3.4 percent of Michigan's school districts graduate a smaller proportion of students. Statewide, only 2.5 percent of Michigan's school districts report a greater dropout rate. Statewide, only 9 percent of Michigan's school districts spend more per student. Statewide, only 2.5 percent of Michigan's school districts spend more per student on administration. When costs are adjusted for student circumstances... only 5.3 percent of Michigan's school districts have less favorable... average amount[s] of money spent per unit of measured achievement." One would think that a school district with this poor a record would welcome a $200 million gift that would dramatically affect the educational opportunities for thousands of Detroit schoolchildren, but there's one problem with that: it would compete with the public schools and if successful at reaching its goal of graduating 90% of its students, it would show that it's possible to do much better than the public schools are currently doing. And that would put egg on the face of the educational establishment. Now the Thompson Foundation has put its offer back on the table, along with the Skillman Foundation. And Grand Valley State University is offering to sponsor the schools (state law allows universities in the state to sponsor a certain number of charter schools). The Skillman Foundation has already donated millions to Detroit public schools that show success, including giving $1.5 million to keep the Communication & Media Arts High School, a quasi-magnet school in the city that has had great success with its educational model, open for the next 3 years. This is not the first time the Thompson Foundation has given huge sums of money to give opportunities to students in Detroit. Their mission is to help lower income people rise out of poverty and to that end they have funded 1000 private school scholarships for Detroit city students, 500 junior college scholarships and 70 undergraduate and graduate scholarships at Michigan Tech and Michigan State. In a city with a dropout rate near 50%, you would think that they would be thrilled that someone is offering to do so much for at-risk students in that city. But the Detroit Federation of Teachers doesn't want the competition from charter schools. Successful charter schools, you see, would make their schools look very, very bad. And apparently covering up their lack of success is more important than providing opportunities for poor students to achieve academically. Now that Thompson's offer is back on the table, the teacher's union must be pressured to end their protests and stop trying to prevent the very thing they should be cheering for.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

I have two teachers in my family, my father is a retired teacher and also served on the schoolboard. Yes, my father was a teacher. I consider him one of the good ones, but the issues that were exposed to me by him allowed me to understand the monopoly power of the MEA and the the disservice done to many of the children in thistate. I understand the teaching profession. It is no harder than any other profession. The difference is that the best teachers can't be rewarded and the worst teachers can't be fired. There is no "real" accountability for incompetence. Teacher health care should be folded into with the rest of the state workers. The only obstacles are special interests like MESSA and the MEA. The number of school districts in Michigan is ridiculous. Public education (in my experience) is morphing into a jobs program and not an child focused educational service. I blame this entirely on the teacher's unions. So teachers can complain about how "hard" their job is... or how others don't understand... etc. you have it pretty good when compared to other professions and this state--- pay above the national average while having results below the national average.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

to braggslaw - teacher unions, or most unions, did not start up because there was nothing better to do that day. Perhaps you need to do research before choose to standby your statement. Dogpaddle is correct. The comment can be applied to most other groups also. The "Ghost" is also correct. There is a reason the profession has been referred as the the "art of teaching". Even the practice of medicine is defined as "the science and ART of healing."

Ross Dunbar

Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

UM should be commended for bringing changes and innovation to its teacher training program. I did my teaching training through George Washington University that took an approach very similar to the one described by UM in the article and was well prepared by it (Ive been teaching ten years now). The new teachers coming out of UM will benefit greatly from this approach.

Sandra Samons

Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.

Changing the name from "student teacher" to "student intern" is no improvement. It sounds like the person is in training to be a student. Why not "teaching intern" or "teacher intern"? I know from experience that part of the process is an evolving identity from student to professional person, and starting to take on the identity of teacher would facilitate that process. I suppose the decision has already been made, but maybe there is enough flexibility to reconsider.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:05 a.m.

Glad to see these changes. Best of luck to these new, young teachers entering a profession where they have to deal with comments such as those above.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 10:05 a.m.

ViSHa, UM only cares about money. That's the problem. There isn't a lot of money in training undergrads to be good teachers. They're more concerned with research grants at the graduate level. EMU is right down the road and a far superior undergraduate education school.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

Coming from out east to Ann Arbor, I was surprised how poor of a reputation the UM School of Education had. It's good that they are trying to improve, but considering they felt they needed to change their names to "student interns", makes me wonder if they are really going to be able to focus on practicality.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

Plumbing A: Probably not, because it's not that tough, but it can be gross. A: No, once the job is done, it's done. You take nothing home. A: Yes, The pay is better, far better when you compare the formal education required. What's your point?


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

braggslaw,before you attack unions, perhaps you should try being a teacher or even better,just go sit in various classrooms and hallways of our very fine and outstanding Ann Arbor schools. Sit in on a staff meeting, visit with teachers, parents, students, administrators, visit with the support staff that schools couldn't run without (many of whom still have unions - the support staff that haven't been privatized yet),sit in on the next negotiation meetings between administration and union leaders and see how each side does an outstanding job of trying to figure out how they can come to an agreement and compromise that protects the bests interests of the schools and still maintains a modicum of respect for employees aka union members and then come back and say what you think is wrong with unions. As we teach our students, don't make a statement you can't defend without clear, sound logical facts. And for the record, unions don't hang on to incompetent teachers. There is a process for getting rid of them. A union protects an employee from an administrator abusing an employee and makes sure that rules are followed. This is a great article and I think UM has one of the best teacher training programs in the country. Kudos to UM for being forward thinking and not doing things "same ol'; same ol'". No, the best way to improve teachers is to NOT get political and bash unions and school staff, but to do exactly what UM is doing is change the way teachers are trained. Doing what their outstanding med school does is a great idea. Let future teachers spend time in a variety of schools visiting with a variety of teachers and then having supervision before being "thrown in with the wolves". Experience IS the best teacher.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

I dont think the public understands how complicated __________ is and how much goes into it. Insert your profession. For example, plumbing. Q- Does your profession spend as much time talking about how tough their job is as educators do? Q- Do you work longer hours than educators? Q- Do you get paid as well?


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

Since the only comment on here is so simple-minded, I feel dumber for even reading it, I thought I'd chime in on the topic. UM is known to have one of the worst teacher education programs in the state, so thankfully, they're trying to actually improve it. UM is an education research powerhouse, of course, but has paid little attention to training their undergrads to be good teachers. They give students tons of theory and let them spend a semester vacationing in a high performing suburban school, and then expect them to succeed in a place like inner-city Chicago, because that is where the jobs are. It's nice to see some forward thinking from them. When MSU instituded a year-long internship for their student teachers they became one of the top undergrad education programs in the nation. UM's plan is even more revolutionary.


Thu, Dec 30, 2010 : 9:31 a.m.

The best way to improve teachers is to eliminate teachers unions