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Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology: New Practices for the New Millenium
National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF, 1996) admonished educators of teachers for not attending to problems of uninspired teaching in their own courses, a curriculum that lacks both substance and depth, and a lack of coherence and articulation in teacher education programs between schools of education and other disciplines. Although critical about how teachers are prepared, the NCTAF report also pointed to research data showing that the United States labors with fatal distractions in its reform efforts, including the misguided beliefs that 1) anyone can teach, especially if they have adequate content knowledge, and that 2) teacher preparation programs contribute little to the production of qualified teachers and high-quality teaching.
In a second report, NCTAF (1997) cited 12 partner states that have begun far-reaching sets of reforms that could affect virtually all aspects of teaching. In North Carolina, for example, the state’s Excellent Schools Act of 1997 enacted “nearly all of the recommendations of the National Commission that were not already in place in the state,” including increasing teachers’ average salaries by 33 percent over four years; improving teacher education by establishing school-university partnerships to create clinical school settings and requiring special education training for all newly prepared teachers; enhancing mentoring of beginning teachers by setting standards for the selection of mentor teachers and providing funds to professionally prepare and compensate mentors; and the funding of professional development tied to state content standards for students.
Mundry et al. (1999) noted the lack of focus and coherence in teacher education programs. That study also highlighted the failure of teacher educators to establish a “coherent set or ‘continuum’ of career-long learning experiences for all K-12 teachers of science and mathematics, primarily to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.” Significant effort is needed to bridge the gap between preservice and inservice teacher education. However, the authors noted that a “disconnect” in teacher education programs actually stems from a major problem that teacher educators face. In the current education system, most teachers do not have access to high-quality, ongoing opportunities for professional development. Thus, schools of education attempt to prepare prospective teachers for the demands of the present system of K-12 education as well as for both probable and unanticipated changes to the education system in the future. Partly as a result of these attempts to cover such broad ground in teacher preparation programs, many