More than 75 attendees, including College of Saint Elizabeth education majors, state teachers and administrators, gathered at the College on October 6, 2011 to hear a presentation on “Teacher Education in the Next Decade,” by Dr. Christopher Campisano. He is the director of teacher preparation programs at Princeton University and former coordinator for Higher Education Programs the N.J. Department of Education. The program was sponsored in part by an award from the Verizon Foundation through the Independent College Fund of New Jersey.
“You can’t change teacher preparation programs without looking at the schools teachers work in,” Campisano said. “Our schools are a mirror of society.” Yet, he described a political climate that portrays an educational system in crisis, while the general public endorses their individual public schools more than at any time in the last 20 years (from a USA poll).
In this nationwide atmosphere, Campisano said, experiments are under way to tie teacher evaluation and pay to student test performance while disregarding criteria such as advanced degrees, seniority, and tenure. “There is a lot of politicking and scapegoating,” he added.
In New Jersey this year, he explained, 11 school districts are experimenting with a teacher evaluation system that is based 50 percent on student performance and 50 percent on professional standards. Shortcomings to this, he said, are the disregard for team teaching, teacher collaboration, and or student/teacher relationships. “We are so focused on standardized tests that some things are being neglected…we are looking at the shadows and making policy based on that.” He added that even well-known author Diane Ravitch, who once called for school reform, has taken an about-face. Ravitch, he said, now admits, “Reform could do more harm than good…merit pay doesn’t have the impact a lot of people believed it would.” She is author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education – a book Campisano recommend the audience read.
Despite this atmosphere of change and uncertainty, Campisano is upbeat about the teaching profession. “You will affect generations of young people,” he told the audience. “Stay focused on the students …get to know them and their neighborhoods… you will be fine.”
Dr. Alan Markowitz, Professor of Graduate Education at the College of Saint Elizabeth, and Dr. Joanne MacLennan, adjunct faculty member in the Graduate Program in Counseling Psychology and Social/Emotional Character Development Specialist at the College of Saint Elizabeth, also presented at the symposium. Dr. Markowitz facilitated a workshop, “Backwards Design to Promote Student Success,” and Dr. MacLennan presented “Emotional Intelligence: The Anti-Bully Vaccine.”