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December 1, 2003
Vol. 61
No. 4

Review

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Who's Teaching Your Children?

Who's Teaching Your Children? Why the Teacher Crisis Is Worse Than You Think and What Can Be Done About It by Vivian Troen and Katherine C. Boles, 2003
We hear a lot of glib talk today about the importance of teachers, even as education policy seems to focus more and more on treating teachers like interchangeable hired hands. Teachers in schools that are heralded by the press—in Houston, for example—talk to me in whispers for fear that they will be fired if they diverge from the party line. They tell me that their lesson plans must be downloaded daily from their district-supplied computers. Although the polls indicate that people trust teachers more than any other public official, we have circumscribed that trust with so many rules and regulations that we don't get the best from our teachers.
The authors of this important book, two experienced classroom teachers and teacher educators, join scholarship with classroom experience to examine how we can improve the odds that all students will have good teachers. Troen and Boles use data and historical and contemporary stories to illustrate three problems that make high-quality teaching nearly impossible. First, the field is not attracting the people our schools need—intellectually strong-minded and curious young adults. Second, those who are attracted to teaching don't receive the right kind of preparation; they get more years of education but not enough firsthand experience of what good schooling looks like. Third, the schools that new teachers enter are not generally equipped for continued professional learning.
The authors offer “a new model for a new era”—the Millennium School—that would restructure the teaching profession. They propose ways to create a more collaborative school culture and to forge a new relationship between elementary schools and universities to improve on-the-job training and professional development.
The Millennium School model reminds me of the Carnegie blueprint, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century, which led to the formation of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards 20 years ago. The 21st century is here, but if anything, we've moved further away from that vision. As we knew then and as Troen and Boles remind us now, the goals of changing our schools and transforming our teaching force are intertwined. We will not get fundamentally stronger teaching without fundamentally different schools, nor will we get better schools without stronger teachers. This book should be read not just by teachers and teacher educators, but also by parents, citizens, and policymakers—by all those who need to speak out for children.
Published by Yale University Press, P.O. Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520-9040; (203) 432-0960; www.yale.edu/yup. 224 pages. $24.95 hardback.
—Reviewed by Deborah Meier, Coprincipal of the Mission Hill K–8 Public School in Boston and author of In Schools We Trust (2002, Beacon Press)

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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