As the first cohort of leaders embarks on their course of study with the new AASA Urban Superintendents Academy at Howard University and the University of Southern California, we are thrilled to see this promising work come to life. Urban districts desperately need forward-thinking leaders, particularly those from underrepresented demographic groups, prepared to be barrier-busting champions for every student in their care.
Following an intensive kick-off conference later this month, participants in the Academy—predominantly from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups—will spend the academic year undertaking internships in the field, focusing on problems of practice under the guidance of experienced mentors, and taking graduate courses at the university before completing culminating projects. These participants, in-service administrators who want to enrich their field experience and training for urban settings or prospective superintendents, will be prepared for certification through the program.
What is so promising about the Academy?
I recently had the pleasure and honor of delivering the keynote address for the 2015 edTPA Mid-Atlantic Implementation Conference in Towson, Maryland. As a longtime supporter and champion of observation- and performance-based educator preparation and assessment, I was eager to share with peers from across the nation who are at different places on their journey with edTPA.
First, I wanted to commend each person for being there. By the virtue of their attendance and leadership, participants were helping shift the negative tone of dialogue around teacher preparation by highlighting innovative practices and committing to positive change. At the core of the narrative is a shared rallying call to ensure each teacher candidate enters tomorrow’s classroom ready to teach.
A double narrative dominates contemporary discussions of teacher quality, leading to often-contradictory policies that stymie reform efforts. First is the democratic imperative to provide equitable access to a quality education to all students, which calls for broadening the diversity of the teaching force to better reflect student demographics. Second is the push for tightening quality controls such as GPA and testing requirements in teacher preparation programs, which results in a considerably less diverse teaching pool. AACTE Holmes Scholars learned about this paradox firsthand earlier this month during Washington Week as they explored the themes of diversity, equity, access, and accountability with a variety of guest speakers from national organizations.
During AACTE’s 2015 Washington Week, we were among a dozen AACTE Holmes Scholars® attending a 3-day Summer Policy Institute that promoted mentorship and support while introducing participants to the national education policy scene. In addition to meeting with policy makers and leaders of various educational organizations, Scholars engaged in a site visit June 9 to the U.S. Department of Education.
Last week, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law Senate Bill 511, which establishes the Teach Nevada scholarship for students interested in completing PK-12 educator preparation programs throughout the state. Sponsored by Governor Sandoval and passed by the State Assembly on the last day of the 2015 session of the Nevada legislature, this bill devotes $2.5 million to student scholarships in each year of the coming biennium. An additional appropriation of $5 million per fiscal year provides funding for Nevada districts to provide financial incentives for new teacher hires.
A healthy organization works to articulate its mission and meet the needs of its members, and that’s just what AACTE did during this year’s Washington Week. We recently returned home from AACTE’s State Leaders Institute (SLI), where we collaborated with chapter leaders and members from various states, June 9-10, followed by advocacy activities at Day on the Hill, June 10-11.
The SLI agenda included updates on the national and regional landscapes of teacher education, accreditation, and capacity building. AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson provided her perspective about the state of the organization and introduced AACTE’s new online professional seminars related to assessment and use of data for improvement. SLI was a great opportunity for us to engage in conversations about regulations, state chapter issues, and increasing the level of engagement in order to enhance teacher preparation.
AACTE just hosted another great Washington Week! This was my third year attending the State Leaders Institute (SLI), and I’m always amazed at how much I learn about what is happening at the federal level and in other states, how other state associations are supporting teacher and leader preparation that will positively affect student learning, and how they are facing and addressing the challenges that are impacting our profession.
All regions of the country were represented during the June 9-10 institute, and as stories were shared, I believe we came to deeper understanding about the uniqueness of our respective states—and, perhaps more importantly, about the ways we are similar and how those similarities can help us frame a common message.
Despite common caricatures of Twitter as the domain of callow teens and celebrity stalkers, it is a technology that should be taken seriously by teacher educators. Although social media has had a dramatic impact on communication in the modern world, the field of teacher preparation has been largely reluctant to add its voices to the mix. It is high time that we wake up to the role new media can play in our professional lives—and to the risks of remaining on the sidelines.
We have seen what can happen when we allow others to decide how our story is told, especially those who view our work with suspicion or even outright hostility. When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that “many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom,” for example, that message won broad circulation, including in social media. Today, the secretary’s and the U.S. Department of Education’s Twitter accounts reach more than 500,000 individuals. By comparison, AACTE’s Twitter account has approximately 5,600 followers.
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) published an article in last week’s Teacher Quality Bulletin that criticized journals with a teacher education focus for not publishing enough articles on “core techniques and skills.” Targeting AACTE’s Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) in particular, the authors report that “only” 11% of the articles published in JTE in the past 5 years address this topic. JTE Coeditor Fran Arbaugh of Pennsylvania State University sent the following response to the article’s authors:
Last year, an AACTE State Chapter Support Grant enabled members of the Michigan Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) to build more collaborative relationships with PK-12 schools and the Michigan Department of Education in order to facilitate more meaningful and relevant discussion on the preparation of excellent beginning teachers. This work supported the chapter’s goal of “promoting, within Michigan, the learning of all PK-12 students through the promotion of high-quality preparation and continuing education for all school personnel.”
Many thanks to AACTE, we were able to host a summer workshop at Ferris State University, the primary accomplishment of which was the review and revision of the MACTE Strategic Plan that had been developed the previous year. Based on input from the workshop, the group decided to tailor the annual conference to provide a forum for examining and highlighting the increasingly pressing issue of beginning teacher evaluation and distinctive efforts to improve educator preparation.