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For nearly three decades I’ve been an advocate for technology’s appropriate (and changing) use in teaching and learning, and during that time I’ve attended more meetings on “integrating” and  “scaling up” technology’s use in schools and classrooms than I can count on. As one might imagine, I’ve become somewhat cynical about the conversation since the themes and challenges remain the same. But despite my cynicism, I came away with some new language to use when discussing school improvement and the use of technology to support it after attending the EdTech Summit, Empowering Educators to Enhance Student Learning in the Digital Era, hosted by the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, the LEAD Commission and Common Sense Media earlier this week.

First, and most importantly, the conversation was centered on teaching and learning and on building the human capacity to make change ...

By Amber Chandler, American Federation of Teachers member and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY

About two years ago I decided that I knew the perfect way to get rich.  I’d create a lesson planning platform that had a dropdown menu of Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).  It would only be a matter of time before I could hit the road schilling this amazing product and making money hand over fist.  Unfortunately, I had no idea how to do this.  And before I could get a new college degree, create an amazing product, and begin my worldwide tour, some other people thought of it! CommonCurriculum.com (my favorite, and the one I still use) LessonPlanner.com, Planboard.com, and many others beat me to it.  I guess they already had their degrees. ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

The young woman sitting across from me had just finished eight weeks of student teaching, and she was anxious to have her own elementary school classroom in one of America’s major cities. She gushed with the kind of enthusiasm that you want to see in beginning professionals. All hope and energy and belief.

I can’t wait to talk to her at Thanksgiving.

Eight weeks of student teaching. At the end of the school year. Under the watchful eye of a veteran teacher. Rarely left on her own. Like me, you are probably seeing all kinds of ways her experience can go wrong. And, like me, you have probably had this same conversation dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.

Encounters like these are just one reason why Ron Thorpe’s proposal for a teacher residency modeled after medical residency makes so much sense. (See “Residency: Can it transform teaching the way it did medicine?” from the September issue of the Phi Delta Kappan.) Sending a teacher into a classroom after just a few weeks of fulltime student teaching is tantamount to supporting malpractice. Does the profession believe there is a link between the quality of teaching and the quality of student learning? If so, then we must closely examine all of our practices to ensure that we are doing everything we can to ensure a high quality of teaching in every classroom. ...

This piece was co-authored with Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association. It first appeared in the Sacramento Bee. View the original here.

The new school year brings one of the biggest transitions our state’s elementary and secondary education system has ever experienced. As students settle into new classrooms, our teachers are adjusting their instruction to help students meet expectations of the new Common Core state standards. It’s our job – as parents, business leaders, students, community members and educators – to look beyond both the hype and hysteria to ensure that students benefit from thoughtful, locally driven implementation.

Part of the challenge we’re facing is a lack of clear information about what the standards are and aren’t. They emphasize critical thinking, problem solving and inquiry-based learning – what students need to thrive in college and in today’s global economy. Far from prescribing what should be taught or how, the new standards outline what students should know while giving teachers the flexibility to decide how to help each student get there. Under Common Core, there are actually fewer standards, allowing teachers to slow down and students to explore each topic in depth. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Recently U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement responding to widespread concerns about standardized testing—saying that “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools” and offering to delay by a year the federal requirement that teacher evaluations include some “significant” influence from students’ performance on state assessments.

Reaction from the field1 to Duncan’s statement has been, as expected, profoundly respectful and professional. Unions, administrators and policymakers have expressed relief that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has finally acknowledged feedback from the field as to the wisdom of policy. While the announced delay in tying teacher evaluations to these impact measures is very important, I am even more interested to see how consistent, congruent and powerful the Obama administration intends to be in its handling of similar policy questions. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, and Mark La-Celle Peterson, Vice President for Policy and Programs, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

On July 22, New York Commissioner of Education John King convened a task force to advise the state on its future use of edTPA, a performance assessment system for aspiring teachers that is now required for licensure in New York.

As the first state to fully implement policy requiring new teachers to pass edTPA for licensure, New York and its PK-12 educators and teacher educators have encountered a variety of operational challenges. Every state that follows New York, as well as our larger professional community, will benefit from New York’s initiative, experience, and solutions.

Consequential use of edTPA is just one of four assessment innovations rolled out in New York’s ambitious new licensing process. (Other required licensure assessments are the Educating All Students exam, Academic Literacy Skills test, and certificate-specific Content Specialty Tests.) While some of us have expressed concern about the rapid roll-out schedule, it is apparent that many candidates were indeed ready to meet the rigorous new requirements: The initial edTPA pass rate was 84%, which we find impressive ...

A recent meeting hosted by the Alliance for Excellent Education on Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers brought back memories of my time teaching many years ago. And it seems that though my experience happened long ago, I fit right into the profile of today’s teaching force: I left the profession after four years of teaching. The difference is that today attention is focused on the problems posed by a work force that overwhelmingly turns over in the first five years and provides an essential service not only to the health of our education system, but to our country. What was true then and is now being identified through research and increased attention is that to retain and develop a highly skilled teaching force, we need to provide support and continued learning opportunities for all our beginning teachers. 

At the Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers event, Richard Ingersoll, Professor of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, shared his research on the demographics of the teaching profession and how that’s dramatically changed over the past twenty plus years, with the result being that the majority of the current teaching profession have fewer than five years’ experience in the classroom. Dr. Ingersoll’s research has looked at the kinds of new teacher induction practiced with this novice work force and the effect that induction has on teacher turnover in the first five years of employment. Percentage of turnover ranges from 41 percent for those teachers who received no induction support to 18 percent for those who were supported in significant ways in their first year on the job. ...

By Dan Brown, Executive Director, Future Educators Association (part of the PDK International Family of Associations)

Fresh out of New York University film school in 2003 and with only a whirlwind summer of training, it was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t safe to practice as a new teacher. Still, the New York City Teaching Fellows gave me hiring papers. Fueled by excitement and inspiration, I took a job teaching 26 4th graders in the Bronx that fall. Although I knew virtually zero about effective teaching, I plunged ahead armed with wits and worksheets.

My rookie year in Class 4-217 at P.S. 85 was, of course, a fiasco – lost learning time that those students can’t get back. Visitors to our class would have seen student fights, unceasing chatter and a stressed-out teacher resorting to survival mode and lowered expectations.

I should have had to wait until I could demonstrate a baseline of competency. The practice of heaping everything on underprepared rookies – like my 22-year-old self – needs to stop. In this trial-by-fire culture, everyone loses: students and parents get stuck with low-skilled teachers, new teachers struggle and run for the door, and our education system remains locked in a state of churn.

The lack of a clear, high bar for what new teachers should know and be able to do on day one also has lowered expectations and respect for the teaching profession. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Once upon a time, we were challenged to find useful data about education. Not much information was collected, and it was largely inaccessible. In recent years, as public demands for greater transparency and evidence-based accountability have generated an information frenzy, we still face this challenge—but not because data are scant. Now they are overabundant, often difficult to decipher, or of unreliable quality. In this new environment, we must prepare teachers and other education leaders to be not only data literate, but also advocates for effective data use by others.

Researchers and education leaders must take responsibility for helping PK-12 practitioners and other decision makers interpret the data being generated by districts, states, think tanks, research and policy organizations, schools themselves, and a multitude of other sources—often with set agendas that taint the evidence. Too often, unscrupulous data collection and usage leads to antagonistic distractions, bad press, and worse policy decisions ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

“The Buck Stops Here,” an expression popularized by President Harry S. Truman, has often been applied to school leadership. It denotes the end of the line, the last decision, the final responsibility. For principals, who assume the dual roles of school manager and instructional leader, the responsibilities of school leadership never end; the “bucks” just keep coming.

With upwards of 40 different daily tasks to accomplish, today’s principals must be multifaceted, possessing a range of skills and competencies more complex than ever before.

When it comes to the factors that they directly influence, such as student safety, financial management, teacher working conditions, and high-quality instruction, for example, principals must rely on their “managerial” capabilities. This role also involves brokering various stakeholder interests and contending with unfunded state mandates, among other escalating education issues.

In this era of high-stakes accountability, the pressure has never been greater for principals to excel also as instructional leaders. Research shows the link between school leadership and student achievement continues to be underestimated, despite ...

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