Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Educator Preparation

Blog Entries

By Stephanie J. Hull

In national efforts to improve schools and ensure that every child is on a meaningful path to college and career, many observers have seen classroom teachers as the linchpin of success. Research shows—compellingly—that the single most important in-school factor in student achievement is the teacher standing in the front of the classroom. That is one of the reasons the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has made it a priority to strengthen the pipelines of effective teachers for high-need schools.

The research is equally clear, though, as to the importance of school principals. In fact, principals account for at least 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement, according to research conducted by organizations such as ASCD and the Wallace Foundation. Principals create the necessary conditions for teachers to succeed—the individual support, the technology, the facilities, the interface with parents and policy leaders. ...

Joshua Starr, who took the helm of Phi Delta Kappa International this summer, left a high-profile job as Superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., schools, where he had focused on accountability and high standards for the fast-growing and increasingly diverse 154,000-student district. While some were surprised that Dr. Starr did not seek another job as superintendent, he is now focusing his work on improving teaching and learning through systemic change at PDK International.

Dr. Starr also has worked as director of accountability for the New York City public schools and as superintendent of the Stamford, Conn., school district. Dr. Starr has a doctorate in education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, a master’s degree in special education from Brooklyn College, and a bachelor’s degree in English and history from the University of Wisconsin. His three children attend public schools in Montgomery County, and he began his career as a teacher working with adolescents with several emotional disabilities.

Dr. Starr recently spoke with the Learning First Alliance about his experience as a superintendent, the recent PDK/Gallup Annual poll, and his plans for the organization. ...

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) recently hosted an annual technology summit for the leaders of 10 teacher educator associations that formed a coalition in 2000 around educational technology and educator preparation. This two-day event has witnessed or directly led to some amazing developments over the years, ranging from research to tools to entirely new technologies, as coalition members serve as a unique focus group and visionary working network bridging education and industry. ...

As part of its Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core national campaign, the Learning First Alliance recently interviewed administrators and education leaders to highlight perspectives on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Kansas. As one of the first states to adopt the CCSS, Kansas reached full implementation of the standards in the 2013-2014 school year. Kansas educators have praised the standards—known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards—for setting rigorous performance expectations for all students and thereby improving teaching and learning in the state.

Across Kansas, districts have used a number of effective strategies to ensure that CCSS implementation has been successful. In particular, administrators have focused on building district cultures that place real value on the new standards and which treat the standards as a permanent improvement to teaching and learning, as opposed to a temporary reform. ...

This is the second in a three-part series highlighting perspectives on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Kansas. As one of the first states to adopt the CCSS, Kansas reached full implementation of the standards in the 2013-2014 school year. Kansas educators have praised the standards—known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards—for setting rigorous performance expectations for all students and thereby improving teaching and learning in the state.

Across Kansas, districts have used a number of effective strategies to ensure that CCSS implementation has been successful. In particular, administrators have focused on building district cultures that place real value on the new standards and which treat the standards as a permanent improvement to teaching and learning, as opposed to a temporary reform. ...

If there were such thing as a DeLorean that took people back in time, I’d love to use it to give first-year-teacher me a few pointers. Back in 2002, I was hired at my old high school, James Monroe, to teach world geography and given two days to prepare for the start of the school year. I tried my best that year. I got there early and stayed late. I volunteered for clubs and I coached the swim team. I stayed afloat using my prized asset—the geography textbook. I also dug through resources that a retiring teacher left me and stockpiled whatever handouts, tests, or worksheets my mentor teacher had to offer. The result? A disjointed mess that made little sense to me and even less to my students. As an illustration of my ineptitude, I ran into one of my former geography students at a trivia night a few years later while he was an undergrad and I was a graduate student at the same university. As we sat at separate tables, the trivia announcer informed us that the first category of the night was geography. My former student looked at me from across the room with his arms raised and yelled “Carbaugh?!?!” Both our teams lost. So, where had I gone wrong as a teacher? I had a bunch of resources. I knew how to design activities, and I knew how to cover content. ...

How do parents know that a license to teach means a person is ready to meet the needs of their child? That’s a good question in a nation where “teacher preparation” still means all things to all people, causing a lot of public doubt.

That’s why my recent visit to Western Washington University in Bellingham was so inspiring. Thanks to a grant from the AFT Innovation Fund, the AFT members at the university’s Woodring College of Education are connecting a series of very important dots in the teaching profession.

Their approach offers a model not just for preparing new teachers, but also for supporting practicing teachers as they mentor novices and work toward achieving certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. It’s well aligned with AFT’s 2013 report, “Raising the Bar,” which calls for aligning and elevating teacher preparation, and the profession, through a clinical model. ...

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, continues to celebrate its 150th anniversary. We were founded by a small group of seven superintendents that came together knowing that like-minded education leaders needed an advocacy voice at the national level.

This was at a time when our nation was reeling from the end of the Civil War. A key element of our mission of what was first called the National Association of School Superintendents was equity. There were vast differences in the way our children were being educated.

Today, a century-and-a-half later, equity continues to be a major challenge in America. That’s why I am very pleased that AASA is partnering with Howard University and the University of Southern California in an effort to confront this challenge head on by working to develop urban leaders for our schools. ...

Our patchwork teacher recruitment pipeline is insufficient, and the new teacher shortage is headline news.

Only 5 percent of high school students taking the ACT exam said they intended to pursue a career as an educator. Enrollments in teacher preparation programs are down across the nation. Simultaneously, the demand is expanding through increasing retirements and student population, requiring more than 250,000 new hires for K-12 teaching positions each year.

And we’re counting on these million new teachers to be highly skilled, well-prepared professionals. We know that when teachers aren’t adequately prepared and built to last, students—especially the most vulnerable—feel the long-term consequences. ...

Every year for the last 47 years, PDK and Gallup have surveyed Americans about their attitudes toward public schools. The poll is the longest-running survey of the nation’s views on schools in history. The results are always eye-opening, and this year was no exception.

The 2015 survey, based on telephone and internet polling of 4,500 U.S. adults in May, produced some telling results – especially when it comes to the importance of teacher quality. Ninety-five percent of parents who participated in the survey said that great teachers are the cornerstone of successful schools. But how do we impact that all-important teacher quality that families crave? And how do we assure that teacher quality matches the needs of today’s digital age learners?

It all comes down to new models of professional learning. ...

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