THE TEACHING PROFESSION

As summarized below, many other professions have developed and adopted coherent, well-recognized procedures and policies for attracting, educating, and inducting new members to the profession. Many of these other professions also have well-understood and accepted expectations for high-quality performance by practitioners, the expectation that practitioners will upgrade their knowledge and skills throughout their careers, and an enabling continuing education system. Often these types of standards are developed and maintained by the members of the profession through accrediting boards and the professional societies that represent them. People who meet or exceed those professional expectations typically are rewarded and recognized in ways that are both tangible and appropriate.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (1994) has articulated such standards or guidelines for the teaching profession. That these guidelines are available but have been widely overlooked or ignored by the nation’s education system is a symptom of a lack of attention to the professional needs of teachers. This lack of attention to teachers as professionals betrays a certain lack of respectful treatment that permeates the continuum of the careers of teachers in the following ways:

Career Advising: Colleges and universities routinely assign an individual or empanel a committee to attend to the needs of students who are preparing for other professions (e.g., medicine, law, or engineering). In contrast, science and mathematics departments rarely have people who are sufficiently knowledgeable about K-12 teaching in the sciences or mathematics to offer students the guidance they need. Many college faculty in science, mathematics, and engineering who serve as academic advisors actually know very little about career opportunities in K-12 teaching or the requirements for entering the profession and may offer very little encouragement to students to pursue a career in teaching.

Rigor and appropriateness of content courses for prospective teachers: Perception can govern action, whether those perceptions are accurate or not. In some institutions, both faculty and students may perceive that courses in science and mathematics designed for teachers are less rigorous or challenging than courses designed for students who are preparing for most other professions (e.g., introductory physics or calculus for pre-engineering students) (see also NRC, 1997b, Lewis and Tucker, in press).

Oversight of teacher education programs by professional organizations: Unlike the requirements and



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