Sometimes the story is as good as the headlines, and sometimes it’s even better. The New York Times op-ed “Teachers Aren’t Dumb” (Sept. 8) by Psychologist Daniel T. Willingham is a case in point. As Willingham notes, contrary to popular belief, new teachers are solid academic performers. And as his article asserts, they can benefit from the research on effective teaching that is being conducted in the schools of education that prepare them. Willingham also points out—with rhetorical hyberbole—that not all preparation programs are using the latest research. While program quality varies, the excellent preparation provided by the universities whose researchers he cites illustrates that teacher education has strong exemplars. Unfortunately, Willingham does not acknowledge the widespread change within the education preparation community.
The direction of today’s preparation programs is truly good news. Willingham accurately identifies two guiding principles for improving teacher preparation and program accountability: evaluate programs based on graduates’ performance on a rigorous, credible culminating assessment, and base that assessment (and programs’ content) on evidence of what works best for student learning.
Research out of Brown University (RI) shows that teachers improve tremendously in their first year of teaching and continue to do so during their career. Researchers John Papay and Matthew Kraft discussed this work in a free AACTE webinar last month, “Toward a Broader Conceptualization of Teacher Quality: How Schools Influence Teacher Effectiveness,” which was recorded and is now available in AACTE’s Resource Library.
Papay, assistant professor of education and economics, and Kraft, assistant professor of education, shared findings from their research, recently published in Productivity Returns to Experience in the Teacher Labor Market: Methodological Challenges and New Evidence on Long-Term Career Improvement and Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development? Explaining Heterogeneity in Returns to Teaching Experience. These studies show that teachers’ learning develops exponentially in their early years in the classroom but also continues to grow throughout their careers at a slower rate, and teachers working in more supportive professional environments improve their effectiveness more over time than teachers working in less supportive contexts.
The following letter to the editor was published in the Washington Post February 23, in response to the February 20 commentary by the University of Virginia’s Robert C. Pianta, “Teacher Prep Programs Need to Be Accountable, Too.”
Robert C. Pianta vastly oversimplified the narrative about accountability among those who prepare educators.
Educator preparation programs should indeed be accountable, and the profession has been busy creating data tools and processes for accountability. States such as Louisiana, California, and Georgia are working to determine the best ways to use data collected through existing assessments and surveys to document program impact. These systems rely on access to K-12 student achievement data as one indicator.
A recent evaluation of the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) found that program graduates are making a significant impact in Boston Public Schools, providing more racially/ethnically diverse teachers and staying in the classroom at higher rates. A webinar hosted by REL Central earlier this month highlighted the findings and challenges of the evaluation, which was conducted by John Papay and colleagues at Brown University (RI).
The study compared BTR graduates to other novice teachers in the urban school system, asking the following questions:
- Does the BTR program prepare more teachers than other pathways in hard-to-staff subjects such as math and science?
- Are BTR recruits more racially and ethnically diverse than teachers from other pathways?
- Do BTR recruits remain in the district longer than other new hires?
- Are BTR teachers more effective in raising student test scores in math and English language arts than teachers with the same level of experience from other pathways?
Joelle Tutela, President, NJACTE
Teacher quality and professional practice in New Jersey just got an enthusiastic shot in the arm, thanks to a new coalition of the state’s teacher educators, teachers’ unions, and other education groups.
Leaders of this coalition, the Garden State Alliance for Strengthening Education, held a high-profile symposium “Taking Back the Profession” September 27 to release a report chock-full of ideas to improve the continuum of teacher development in the state. The event was attended by several key state education officials and featured nationally known speakers including Stephanie Hirsch of Learning Forward, Marilyn Cochran-Smith of Boston College (MA), and Susan Headden of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In addition, the report was featured at a press conference October 2 and will be the subject of a state hearing later this month.
The Innovations Inventory of AACTE’s Innovation Exchange is an online database highlighting members’ pioneering practices in educator preparation that have shown a positive impact on issues of student learning, preparation program advancement, or educator workforce needs. This blog post is one in a series highlighting entries from the inventory. To request inclusion of your institution’s innovations, contact Zachary VanHouten at email@example.com.
Georgia State University (GSU) is the largest producer of minority educators in the state of Georgia and graduates approximately 500 teachers annually. GSU’s Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) program aims to increase teacher quality in urban and rural areas in Georgia. The program includes both pre- and postbaccalaureate initiatives for educators serving high-need school districts in these settings.
NET-Q boasts a partnership with at least 15 rural PK-12 schools, local businesses, two historically Black colleges, and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.
The March/April 2014 issue of the Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) is now available online. See what Volume 65 Number 2 has to offer!
- In this month’s editorial, “Research as a Catalyst for Change,” JTE‘s editors at Penn State University relate the issue’s contents to AACTE’s 66th Annual Meeting theme, Taking Charge of Change. Heralding the theme as an opportunity to champion the role of research in informing policy and practice, the editors highlight the articles’ contributions to knowledge about innovative practices in the development of both preservice and in-service educators.