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Collaboration Across State Lines Transforms Educator Preparation

In February, the Louisiana Department of Education hosted representatives from six states in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP). Formed in 2013, this aligned action network brings together state chiefs and their education agency staff who are committed to activating key policy levers around licensure, program approval, and data as they transform educator preparation in their respective states. As a representative from the Missouri NTEP team, I joined colleagues from five states—Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington—on the visit to Baton Rouge to attend Louisiana’s Believe and Prepare Community Meeting and learn from the work of practitioners, programs, and districts across Louisiana leading efforts to improve educator preparation.

Study: Evidence ‘Thin’ for Key Accountability Efforts—Except for edTPA

A new policy brief out of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) reviews the evidentiary base underlying four national initiatives for teacher preparation program accountability and finds that only one of them—the beginning-teacher performance assessment edTPA—is founded on claims supported by research. The other three mechanisms included in the study are the state and institutional reporting requirements under the Higher Education Act (HEA), the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) standards and system, and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Teacher Prep Review.

Holding Teacher Preparation Accountable: A Review of Claims and Evidence, conducted by Marilyn Cochran-Smith and colleagues at Boston College (MA), investigated two primary questions: What claims does each initiative make about how it contributes to the preparation of high-quality teachers? And is there evidence that supports these claims? In addition, researchers looked at the initiatives’ potential to meet their shared goal of reducing educational inequity.

Deans for Impact Policy Agenda Calls for Better Data Access

Navigating the opportunities and challenges that new data sources and reporting requirements present was a frequent theme at this year’s AACTE Annual Meeting. In one well-attended session, representatives of the group Deans for Impact (DFI) released their latest policy paper, From Chaos to Coherence: A Policy Agenda for Accessing and Using Outcomes Data in Educator Preparation, also described here on the DFI blog. (You may recall that DFI, started in 2015 by Benjamin Riley when he left the New Schools Venture Fund, shares AACTE’s commitment to using outcomes-focused data to inform and improve educator preparation. Its 22 member deans include 15 from current AACTE member institutions, many of whom serve or have served on AACTE committees and in other leadership roles.)

The brief calls on policy makers to make better data on graduates’ performance in the field available to programs—an important priority that resonates across the educator preparation profession. As the report notes, despite widespread calls for connecting evidence of new teachers’ effectiveness back to their preparation programs, “there has been no coordinated effort to provide these programs with valid, reliable, timely, and comparable data about the [educators] they prepare” (p. 2). Individual institutions, state university systems, AACTE state chapters and their leadership group, and our accreditor have all called attention to this persistent problem.

AACTE to Honor JTE Article Linking Field Placements to Graduates’ VAM

AACTE has chosen Matthew Ronfeldt of the University of Michigan School of Education to receive the 2016 AACTE Outstanding Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) Article Award for his article “Field Placement Schools and Instructional Effectiveness,” published in the September/October 2015 issue of the journal. The award will be presented at the 68th AACTE Annual Meeting Speaker Spotlight Session, Thursday, February 25, at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.

Ronfeldt’s study aimed to determine (a) what types of schools in an urban district are used most for preservice field placement, (b) what school characteristics make a difference in the effectiveness (gauged by value-added measures, or VAM, in reading and math) of the teachers placed there, and (c) whether teachers’ effectiveness corresponds to the degree of match between their preparation sites and the schools where they currently work.

Countries With High-Performing Students Have Strong Teacher Professional Learning

Two new studies commissioned by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) credit the collaborative professional learning of teachers in British Columbia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore with their students’ strong performance on international assessments. NCEE’s Center on International Education Benchmarking organized a half-day forum last month featuring panel discussions of these countries’ policies that support such systems—and what lessons the United States should draw from them.

Rather than treating professional development as an add-on program such as monthly workshops, the studies say, successful education systems embed it broadly. Teacher-led collaborative learning is deliberately planned into structures such as well-defined career ladders, mentorship programs, and schools’ daily schedules. Although some of these features can be found in U.S. districts, none is widely used or as robust as described in the reports, and panelists advocated for a stronger systems approach.

Department Issues New Guidance on ESSA

On January 28, the U.S. Department of Education issued more guidance to states on transitioning from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law in December.

The new law requires the eight states without NCLB waivers to continue intervening in schools identified as being in need of improvement in 2015-16 through 2016-17. But they don’t have to set aside 20% of their Title I dollars to provide tutoring and school choice. Should these states forego the requirement, they will have to develop and implement a 1-year transition plan to ensure their local education agencies provide alternative supports for eligible students and schools with the highest need. Additional information will be sent to the nonwaiver states in the coming days or weeks. (The eight nonwaiver states are California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.)

Stories of Impact: Preparing STEM Teachers to Serve High-Need Schools in Georgia

Ed Prep Matters is featuring “Stories of Impact” to showcase AACTE member institutions with educator preparation programs that are making a positive impact in their communities and beyond through innovative practices. We are committed to sharing members’ success stories and encourage you to do the same.

It’s no secret that Georgia, like many states throughout our nation, struggles to recruit highly qualified teachers committed to serving students in high-need schools in urban and rural communities—especially in math, science, and special education. When you take into consideration the state’s explosive population growth over the last several years, one-third of new teachers leaving the profession within 3 to 5 years, and a large number of retiring teachers, it is imperative that institutions responsible for teacher preparation work together to find a solution to the staffing crisis.

Never Abandon Your Principles—Or Your Students

Wendy Bradshaw
Wendy Bradshaw, in a photo from her Facebook profile

It’s sad but true: In October, a veteran teacher in Florida resigned because the conditions under which she was required to work did not support best practice. Despite her love of teaching and her “highly effective” ratings in evaluations, Wendy Bradshaw was trapped in an untenable position because she was required to deploy practices that were developmentally inappropriate for her young students.

Based on her extensive training in human growth and development, this highly credentialed professional with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees would not persist in activities that she knew to be harmful to her students. “Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it,” she writes in her resignation letter. “However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.”

New Research-Based Resources Support Teacher Preparation

Teacher educators and teacher candidates have new resources in two high-level summaries of the research on learning. By distilling and organizing the existing research on cognitive science and educational psychology, the reports offer teacher candidates concise summaries of high-impact practices grounded in scientific evidence and professional consensus around PK-12 learning. Teacher preparation programs might find them valuable as resources to tie together learning science concepts that are integrated across multiple courses.

Teacher Preparation Is Smart (Response to ‘Teachers Aren’t Dumb’)

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.

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