Two New Books on Teacher Preparation Spotlight the Outside Forces that Shape Education

A book launch for Teaching Teachers and The New Democratic Professional in Education, was the occasion for a robust conversation on the trends that have shaped teacher preparation and the challenges faced by those who work in public education sector.

Held in the Pless Hall Lounge on September 24th, the talk brought students, faculty, and community members together for a book signing, lecture, and discussion that featured NYU Steinhardt Professor James Fraser  and doctoral student, Lauren Lefty (co-authors of Teaching Teachers) and Professor Gary Anderson and Michael Ian Cohen (co-authors of The New Democratic Professional in Education).

David Kirkland, executive director of the NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, and Diana Turk, associate professor of social studies education, offered a response to the authors’ presentations.

Introducing the authors, Steinhardt Vice Dean Pamela Morris praised the new books for making an important contribution to the teacher education field.  She noted that both books were engaged in thinking about institutional impact and the “role of creativity in solving the problems of public education in the city.”

Lauren Lefty and Professor James Fraser

In separate talks, Fraser and Lefty discussed Teaching Teachers, their study on how historical and social forces have led to changes in teacher preparation.

Among the changes they describes was an movement embracing alternative routes to certification.  The authors spoke of the influence that market forces have exerted in shaping this movement, and the active role that superintendents have played in creating more public school districts and charter school networks that prepare their own teachers.

Professor Gary Anderson and Michael Ian Cohen

Anderson and Cohen discussed The New Democratic Professional in Education, a study on how market-driven reforms and the privatization of public education have reshaped the professional identities of teachers and school leaders.

The authors made the point that many of these educational reforms, developed largely by elite, white males, disproportionately affect low income students and students of color.  They noted that “teachers, parents, and students are resisting such reforms both individually and collectively,” and that new alliances must be forged to create a “new democratic professional,” who values democracy and educational equity and is student and community-minded.

Kirkland and Turk shared the spotlight with the authors, offering their impression of both books and their own experiences in the public schools.  Kirkland noted that all the authors succeeded in drawing a “portrait of a fragile profession.”  Turk, who “lived the history” in the books discussed, said that the authors spoke to the the larger question of teacher preparation in an age that has no precedent.

The panel took questions from the audience, from left to right, Gary Anderson, Michael Ian Cohen, Diana Turk, David Kirkland, Lauren Lefty, and James Fraser.

In the end, authors and panelists concluded that despite public education’s battered reputation, the future was still bright.

“From making classrooms culturally responsive to engaging meaningfully with families and communities, teachers and leaders are actively working for change,” Anderson said.

The event was sponsored by the NYU Steinhardt Humanities Initiative.