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Letter to Editor: Prepare Teachers to Adapt to Factors Outside School

The following letter to the editor was published today in Education Week.

There are kids entering urban classrooms every day hungry, sad, tired, and angry. Name an obstacle to learning, and most urban teachers have seen it play out firsthand among their students.

In January, the Horace Mann League of the United States released School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect, a report on the “unparalleled levels” of poverty, inequity, and violence faced by U.S. students. Though outside factors such as these are not the reason for increasing gaps in achievement, they’re barriers teachers must understand and address to have an impact on student learning.

To develop this understanding and provide the tools needed to surmount such obstacles, we must first look to educator preparation programs.

All our programs must proactively train their candidates to deal with the issues they’ll face in the classroom. Programs preparing candidates to do this successfully must share best practices with their peers.

In February, professionals in preparation programs across the country came together for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s Annual Meeting to learn how to better address the needs of urban students and the profession as a whole. We had the opportunity to discuss innovative ways we’re preparing teachers for the obstacles they will face and how we can continue to make improvements to our training methods.

Whether an English-language learner, a student needing additional supports, or a student living in poverty, each child requires a teacher with the skills to identify and address his or her individual needs.

Teachers have the incredible opportunity to positively affect a child’s learning by engaging in high-quality classroom practices. It’s incumbent upon our programs to teach, model, and assess candidates’ competence in these practices, to ensure that all teachers are ready and able to build the relationships necessary for providing meaningful learning in every classroom.


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Etta R. Hollins

University of Missouri at Kansas City

Rodrick Lucero

Vice President for Member Engagement and Support

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