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Forum Promotes Systems Approach to Educator Preparation Policy

How can state policy makers, education agencies, and school officials work together more cohesively to address critical teacher pipeline issues? Leaders from three states discussed strategies and obstacles to this shared goal during a major forum, “Acting as Systems: A Pipeline Approach to Educator Preparation Policy,” held March 2 at AACTE’s 69th Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida.

The forum, moderated by AACTE Senior Vice President Mark LaCelle-Peterson, featured discussions among the following policy leaders:

  • Robert L. Caret, University System of Maryland
  • Karen Salmon, Maryland State Department of Education
  • MaryEllen Elia, New York State Education Department
  • Nancy Zimpher, State University of New York
  • Frank Brogan, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
  • Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Department of Education

These panelists articulated the need for greater collaboration between PK-12 and higher education professionals and across state agencies, citing contemporary challenges – teacher shortages, student equity concerns, funding shortfalls – and sharing their progress in seeking statewide, integrated solutions to replace the unfortunate standard of parallel systems with bifurcated efforts.

Joining the panel via video, Brogan and Rivera outlined two primary joint responsibilities of their systems: to take students to the next level of their education experiences (connecting high school to postsecondary education) and to prepare teachers to facilitate these experiences (thus connecting higher education back to PK-12).

Citing common challenges that would benefit from collaborative attention in their states, Rivera said reduced funding has caused Pennsylvania to tighten its spending on education, resulting in a loss of services to some of the neediest students. At the higher education level, another major challenge is declining enrollments, Brogan added, and officials are in the process of determining how best to address the issue.

Salmon noted the critical shortage of teachers feeding Maryland’s pipeline (of the 6,000 teachers hired last year, just 39% were prepared in the state) and stressed the need to work together across the state to attract more candidates to teacher preparation programs. Caret agreed that teacher recruitment and retention are the state’s key challenges. He said their systems’ collaborative relationship is critically important to finding solutions. “In Maryland, we are structurally set up to work well together.”

The biggest concern they need to address, Salmon said, is equity. She explained that there are many strategies at work to improve educational equity – such as augmenting the teacher pipeline, improving teachers’ preparation for culturally responsive practice, and securing better resources to support teachers and students.

Zimpher and Elia cited similar issues in New York, amplified in magnitude in a state with more than 700 school districts. They are determined to “own the challenge” together, though, without getting caught up in finger-pointing or turf battles. Their approach involves meeting with (and listening to) large numbers of stakeholders, paying holistic attention to the education pipeline as a seamless continuum from the earliest levels up through higher education, and improving teacher preparation through the ambitious TeachNY campaign. “The issue of trying to connect is one of our biggest challenges,” Elia said. “We are not in the place of having the right people in the right positions going in the right places. How can we take students and help them go into teaching to help their communities?”

Overall, the panel highlighted the power of system-level collaboration to drive development and change in education, emphasizing the importance of working together to develop and implement policy. LaCelle-Peterson thanked the speakers for showing attendees “leaders who are committed to doing this work together, leaders who have a clear view of the challenges and the understanding that policy and practice both play, and a series of initiatives that are actually engaging and involving more and more stakeholders from across the different levels in developing the policies.”

A recording of this major forum is available in the AACTE Learning Center, along with recordings and slides from the other major forums and general sessions held in Tampa.


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