UVA Hosts State ‘TeachStrong’ Event on Teacher Prep

On October 11, a TeachStrong event was hosted by the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia to offer solutions to concerns in the state about the preparation of novice teachers. The event, held jointly with the state’s education secretary, aimed to highlight successful programs and practices aligned with TeachStrong’s policy proposal around quality teacher preparation. (AACTE is a partner supporting the nine TeachStrong principles to elevate teaching.)

After a short welcome and introduction by Dean Robert Pianta and Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent, a panel of five educators discussed programs run by George Mason University, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Well-planned clinical practices were the focal point of the discussion.

Adam Erbrecht, principal of Daniels Run Elementary School in Fairfax County, shared his experience hosting a university course in his building with faculty members and candidates from George Mason who are teaching while learning to apply theory to practice. Dale Williams, clinical resident coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, highlighted the Richmond Teacher Residency Program and its practices to increase both candidate quality and candidate diversity. And three speakers from the Curry School of Education and its partner schools – Field Placement Coordinator Adria Hoffman, third-grade teacher Nikki Franklin, and preschool teacher Shannon Gilliken – discussed their school’s commitment to developing excellent classroom teachers to become mentors for candidates.

The panelists also pointed out a number of inconsistencies between best practices and policy requirements, such as the state’s discontinuation of dual-certification programs. They told Secretary Trent that this policy is contributing to shortages, especially in the case of special education, by forcing teachers to obtain two separate degrees in order to teach two subject areas.

While the tone of the event was positive and encouraging, no one mentioned that these three programs were recipients of federal Teacher Quality Partnership grants, which continue to be threatened in administration budgets and congressional appropriations. The grants have been a great boon to participants in transforming their programs to develop well-prepared teachers for high-need schools, which is an expensive endeavor.

All the same, this TeachStrong event offered an important platform to highlight strong programs based in institutions of higher education. In addition, many of the innovative approaches mentioned during this event were based in and specific to the local PK-12 partner schools. The question remains to be explored how providers can address both the needs of local partner schools and candidates’ needs to be prepared in ways that will allow them to succeed in teaching positions outside the community.

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Sungti Hsu

Director of State Affiliate and Partnership Support