There is a central contradiction that lies at the heart of neoliberal attempts to restructure teacher education: On the one hand, neoliberals seek the deregulation of teacher education, while on the other hand, they also seek to hyper-regulate the actual labor of teachers. The deregulation takes place through the development of private, often nonprofit teacher preparation programs--such as the Relay Graduate School of Education or Teach for America--who are given the power to grant teacher licensure while meeting fewer certification requirements than traditional, university-based programs. The neoliberal theory of action here is that less regulation leads to more innovation in teacher education and more competition with university-based programs, thereby improving teacher preparation for all--a theory of action that is not supported by the evidence (Zeichner, 2016; Zeichner & Pena-Sandoval, 2015).
This approach to teacher education is consistent with the neoliberal educational project generally, which pushes for less governmental oversight and regulation generally, a divestment in public institutions like education, and a reliance on corporate and philanthropic entities to advance policy, implement practices, and create institutions outside of the public sphere (Au & Ferrare, 2015; Fabricant & Fine, 2013). However, in teacher preparation, we see a contradictory neoliberal impulse as well. While teaching as a profession is being deregulated in the interest of "free market" competition, the actual labor of teachers is being hyper-regulated. This hyper-regulation happens in teacher credentialing and K-12 classrooms alike.
Apple (2005) discusses the need for neoliberals to develop audit culture as part of market reforms--that is, institutional practices and expectations to count everything possible in the interest of efficiency and surveillance, all under the guise of "accountability." In teacher preparation this has resulted in the increased (and sometimes untenable) demands required for state and national accreditation of university-based teacher education programs as well as the ever-increasing prerequisites, entrance exams, and licensure exams required for teachers (Zeichner, 2010). In this way the labor of teacher educators has become hyper-regulated as professors of education end up falling into line with...
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