The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is speaking at Columbia University’s Teachers College today to draw attention to what he calls the “mediocre job” that schools of education are doing to prepare teachers for “the realities of the 21st-century classroom.” Kelly Field writes:

In a prepared text of his speech, the secretary accuses colleges of using their schools of education as “cash cows” and “profit centers” to finance “prestigious but underenrolled graduate departments like physics—while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical testing.” He calls on colleges to make student outcomes “the overarching mission that propels all their efforts.”

He also criticizes states and the federal government for approving weak teacher-training programs and licensing examinations for teachers, and for failing to provide enough support for programs that provide mentors for teachers.

Duncan’s speech is especially laudable for the strong language with which it argues that talented teachers form the bedrock of American equality. In the transcript, he states, “I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. And if you care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequality, about promoting civic knowledge and participation, the classroom is the place to start.” Well said.

Daniel Fromson

Follow Daniel on Twitter @dfroms. Daniel Fromson was an editorial intern at the Washington Monthly.