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The Independent Institute
Working Paper #35

Teacher Training and Texas Education Reform
A Study in Contradiction


Abstract: Parents, policymakers, and taxpayers want schooling that equips students with the knowledge and skills that are vital to subsequent learning and adult success. Most professors who train teachers do not agree. They believe teachers should employ an ideal form of teaching called learner-centered instruction (LC) -an approach that works best with ideal students. The LC approach attempts to take the work out of schoolwork but at the risk of the child's potential for future accomplishment. Texas and many other states encourage the use of such teaching despite its misalignment with their educational priorities. Contrary to parent expectations, LC encourages teachers to use ad hoc practices to bring about open-ended outcomes. Its practices are innovative, appealing, and promising but not proven. Despite its history of fads and failure, learner-centered instruction is considered benign and remains popular with professors. Studies of LC's human costs are nonexistent. Instead of concern for the lifelong harm that stems from educational failure, teachers are taught that the quality of classroom life is the morally and educationally superior consideration. Unlike medicine and engineering, public regulation of teacher training and practice has utterly failed to insure safe and effective practice. Collaboration between educators and regulators has become "regulatory capture" and regulations have become a means whereby educators impose their views on the public. Current national recommendations for reform risk making matters worse by giving added regulatory backing to flawed educational doctrine. The adoption of value-added assessment as an indicator of teacher performance offers a critically important alternative to policymakers.