NJACTE, Partners Lead Charge to ‘Take Back the Profession’

NJACTE President Joelle Tutela
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.

Joelle Tutela, president of the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (NJACTE) and director of teacher education at Rutgers University-Newark, cohosted the symposium. “Realizing that no one group can represent the perspective of all other stakeholders, the Garden State Alliance was formed to bring together a broad range of stakeholders to empower teachers and bring multiple perspectives to the table,” Tutela said in an interview this week. “We need a much better approach to enhancing teacher quality than what we have been offered until now. Accountability alone will not improve teaching and learning. And accountability does not build capacity, nor does it provide the supports needed for success.”

The alliance was cofounded by NJACTE and the New Jersey Education Association. Other members of the coalition include the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the New Jersey Field Directors Forum, the New Jersey Parent-Teacher Association, and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.

The ambitious report, Designing a Continuum to Support Effective Teaching in New Jersey: Today and Tomorrow, outlines current challenges and proposes coordinated reforms to various stages of teachers’ professional development and practice. It offers a new vision for a systems approach to the field, embodied in extensive recommendations addressing four major areas: teacher preparation, teacher induction, professional learning, and teacher leadership. To achieve a more supportive, cohesive system, the report calls for bridging current fragmentation in these areas, such as a lack of alignment between arts and sciences and education course work, disjointed ownership of the professional continuum, and unfocused induction and mentoring programs.

The report recommends establishing a new statewide commission to advise the State Board of Education on teacher preparation, studying current policies with an eye to alignment across professional stages and agencies. A detailed roster of stakeholders is proposed for membership in the commission, whose charge would include studying the state program approval process, including alternate-route programs; explore strategies to better match teacher supply with demand; and advise on the integration of Common Core State Standards and other content-specific standards in preparation programs, among other assignments.

Other recommendations include requiring an InTASC-aligned performance assessment for prospective teachers from all routes, requiring all teacher education faculty to hold at least one PK-12 teaching certificate and to have recent experience working with PK-12 students, reestablishing the state professional standards board, redesigning the state’s model for teacher evaluation and professional development, establishing a new licensure endorsement for teacher leaders, and more.

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