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Survey: Too many teachers, too little quality

WASHINGTON -- The nation's teacher-training programs do not adequately prepare would-be educators for the classroom, even as they produce almost triple the number of graduates needed, according to a survey of more than 1,000 programs released Tuesday.

The National Council on Teacher Quality review is a scathing assessment of colleges' education programs and their admission standards, training and value. The report, which drew immediate criticism, was designed to be provocative and urges leaders at teacher-training programs to rethink what skills would-be educators need to be taught to thrive in the classrooms of today and tomorrow.

"Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms" with an ever-increasing diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic students, the report's authors wrote.

"A vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars," the report said.

The answer, the council and its allies argue, is to make it more difficult for students to get into teacher preparation programs in the first place. And once there, they should be taught the most effective methods to help students.

"You just have to have a pulse and you can get into some of these education schools," said Michael Petrilli, a vice president at the conservative-leaning Fordham Institute and a former official in the Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement. "If policymakers took this report seriously, they'd be shutting down hundreds of programs."

Some 239,000 teachers are trained each year and 98,000 are hired -- meaning too many students are admitted and only a fraction find work.

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