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Expanding Horizons With Global Partnerships

What did you do this summer?

For many of us in education, summer is a time for reflection on the past and planning for the future. We engage in professional learning, and if we’re lucky, we expand our horizons by visiting new places.

I had the great fortune to do all of these things last month during a fascinating trip to China.

At the invitation of China’s National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook Development, several U.S. education leaders and I participated in the China Teacher Leaders Forum and a series of other meetings with Chinese agency heads, educators and teacher educators, and business and philanthropic representatives.*

We were invited to teach, but as often happens in these situations, we ended up learning even more. And the July trip was only the beginning of what I hope will be an extended and mutually beneficial exchange.

The main thing the Chinese agency wanted to learn about from us is teacher-quality metrics—standards, assessments, and other elements of a quality-assurance system. (It’s mind-boggling to think that whatever metrics they finally decide to adopt will be applied nationally, unlike here. Imagine the potential!) They are looking for a partner to design their custom performance assessment—possibly the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity—but they haven’t decided what level of teaching they want to assess, and representatives from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards joined us as invited guests to help think about standards and assessments for accomplished teaching.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are asking intriguing questions, and we are happy to engage in philosophical conversations with the best thinkers from both countries. But to me, that’s not even the most exciting part. I was captivated by their coordinated network of some 100,000 teacher leaders who are employed by the central government but assigned at the city/district level to support teaching practice. How might U.S. schools institute this kind of resource, and who would coordinate it?

Such a strategic deployment of teacher talent offers reliable, just-in-time staff development and instructional interventions, benefiting not only students but also educators. We know that novice teachers have a much better chance of persistence in the profession if they have a structured support system, and the teacher-leader role would be an important career option for accomplished educators. Even preservice preparation could benefit, as the teacher leaders would be uniquely positioned to collect feedback from in-service educators about their preparation programs and to advise on clinical placements for candidates.

You’ve often heard me talk about the need to act as one profession, and here it is again: The world we want to create is a world of partnerships, both intra- and internationally, centered on our common goals. The goals of educator preparation professionals are the goals of the PK-12 schools, all in the service of student learning. To name a few shared objectives that a teacher leader system could address, we want to improve the on-boarding of novice teachers in their first classrooms, collect feedback that informs backward-mapped changes to preservice preparation, share emerging knowledge from academia, and collaboratively build a research agenda that is relevant locally and informed by broader perspectives. So how do we get there?

Although specifics of our new China-U.S. education partnership are still being discussed, the next steps are likely to include a series of exchanges like our colleagues at the National Association of Secondary School Principals enjoyed last year. Of course, the highly developmental and intense work of exploring solutions and translating practice across geographic and cultural divides will extend well beyond this summer—but already, our horizons have expanded tremendously.


* Among our gracious hosts were Yuexia Liu, Deputy Director, the National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook Development; Jingqi Mo, Director, Division for Instruction, the National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook Development; Yunhuo Cui, Professor and Director, Institute of Curriculum and Instruction, East China Normal University; Dianfang Xu, Director, Teaching and Research Section, Shanghai Municipal Education Commission; Mingze Ji, Vice Director, Teaching Research Section, Shanghai Municipal Education Commission; Yudong Liang, Manager, China Internet Education Industry Investment Fund; Bin Luo, Principal, Teachers’ Training School of Haidian District, Beijing; Wei Hu, Director, Institute of Private Education, Shanghai Academy of Education Research; and Lingfei Miu, Partner, China First Capital.


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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE

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