As a fellow social studies teacher educator who is committed to the revitalization of urban schools, I share Alan Singer's concerns. It is essential that urban schools improve, and to do so, they need high-quality teachers. Like Singer, I believe that new teacher education programs should be "introduced through thoughtful discussion and decisions should be based on research into their impact on children in schools."
But contrary to Singer's assertions, this is precisely how the NYU Steinhardt program was designed. While Singer is entitled to his opinion, it is important to clarify several facts about the Steinhardt program that he got completely wrong.
First, he lumped together programs that are not alike. NYU Steinhardt's program combines a full-time classroom residency with online learning, unlike other programs he mentioned. Our students will be in schools every day of the week, supported by teacher mentors from those schools and by NYU faculty. There is, in fact, considerable evidence showing that residency models work, and the faculty who designed this program drew on that research and other work in our design of the new Steinhardt graduate program in teacher education.
Second, in raising questions about USC Rossier's online teacher education program, Singer tries to draw a connection between NYU's program and USC's based on NYU's current dean having formerly been involved with the USC program. Yet, NYU's team of tenured, tenure-track, and clinical faculty did not draw from the USC model in designing our own. The NYU Steinhardt faculty wrote a brand-new curriculum from scratch, drawing on research and experience from the best university-based teacher education programs in the country and tailoring the program from the start to be effective for graduate students embedded as residents in urban middle and high school classrooms.
Finally, Singer may not be clear on "...how students will be placed, who will select the schools and cooperating teachers, and whether any of this will actually benefit the high-needs urban students in these classrooms," but only because he never asked. I want to be clear: professors in NYU's Department of Teaching and Learning designed and built the new curriculum (which, interestingly, assigns one of Alan Singer's books as required reading), and it was voted on unanimously by the department's secondary faculty. The NYU faculty who wrote this program - and will be teaching in it - are the ones who have control over all academic decision-making, including curriculum and course content, admissions, student assessment, and decisions about partner districts. These are the same faculty, I should add, who teach in the "traditional" teacher education programs (that will continue alongside the new residency model program) that Singer holds up as superior.
It is premature to go into detail on the curriculum, given that it is still under review by New York State, but I will say that the program that has been developed is academically rigorous and features a level of integration of content-based pedagogy and instruction, special education, literacy, attention to teaching emergent bilinguals, and exploration of adolescent development that those of us with multiple decades in the field of teacher education have never before seen. My faculty colleagues and I are extremely excited to launch this program and look forward to evaluating the data from it.
After a thorough faculty vetting process, we chose to go forward with this program - while continuing to offer and indeed strengthen our on-campus teacher education programs - for a very straightforward reason: we wanted to try a new approach to preparing the next generation of teachers that we think is innovative and shows promise. That's what should happen in a school of education.
Diana Turk is the Director of Teacher Education and an Associate Professor of Social Studies Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.