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Donna Sacco

George Mason University - AACTE intern

From Education Intern to Avid Holmes Program Advocate

Donna Saco and two Holmes doctoral studentsAACTE’s Jerrica Thurman first met Donna Sacco in 2015. Sacco was one of three doctoral students from George Mason University (GMU) who worked as an AACTE education intern, assisting in advocating for high-quality preparation programs and with its marketing communications. Thurman was pleasantly surprised when she saw Sacco at AACTE’s 2019 Washington Week with her two Holmes doctoral students from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). It was during her AACTE internship that Sacco learned about the Holmes Program and determined to make a personal contribution to help diversify the teacher workforce by becoming a Holmes advocate. The following summary highlights an interview Thurman had with Sacco about her journey from an intern to a change agent in education. 

What piqued your interest in the issues of teacher diversity as a doctoral student at George Mason University and student intern at AACTE?

Before my doctoral program, I was a special educator with a master’s degree in bilingual special education. For my entire career, my focus has been on culturally and linguistically responsive instructional practices. Part of my drive came from the stories my father told me about the obstacles he experienced in his childhood as the son of Italian immigrants. He was a brilliant man but never went to college. He had one advocate who helped mentor him in appreciating the arts but had no teachers who were advocates, role models, or who understood his background. Once I began researching teacher education, I was surprised to learn that the teaching force is composed of roughly 80% white female teachers. How had I missed that obvious point? I am a white female who was teaching mostly boys of

AERA Panel Weighs Supervisors’ Role in Supporting PDS Educators

At last month’s conference of the American Educational Research Association, I attended a joint business meeting of two special interest groups—Professional Development School Research and Supervision and Instructional Leadership—focused on the role of supervision of instruction in professional development schools (PDSs) from preservice to retirement. Panelists included AACTE’s Linda McKee, senior director of performance measurement and assessment policy; Daisy Arredondo-Rucinski, University of Alabama; and Bernard Badiali, Pennsylvania State University.

Apples to Oranges: Comparing Student Performance Across Countries With Varied Socioeconomic Conditions

In the three decades since A Nation at Risk was released, the state of America’s education system relative to other countries’ has been a matter of heated debate. Along the way, public opinion has placed the onus for our schools’ perceived failure on teachers and their preparation, and education policy has echoed this assumption through an array of accountability measures for teachers and preparation programs.

One driver of the continued misconception about U.S. teacher quality is the highly publicized results of international large-scale education assessments (ILSAs) that suggest America’s students are performing far below other nations. At January’s press briefing for the report The Iceberg Effect, lead researcher and report author James Harvey explained that ILSAs have been misused and that the science behind them is highly questionable, akin to comparing apples to oranges.

Advancing the Imperative of Authentic Practice

Throughout the AACTE Annual Meeting sessions in Atlanta, I was reminded of the lesson from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. The imperative of ample, authentic practice as a foundation for professional mastery resonated across several conference presentations.

‘The Iceberg Effect’—Not Just About Asking Questions

Upon arriving at AACTE last month to begin our semester-long internship, we were whisked off to the National Press Club for a press briefing on The Iceberg Effect, based on the new studySchool Performance in Context: Indicators of School Inputs and Outputs in Nine Similar Nations. For three doctoral students who are dedicated to promoting social justice in and out of the classroom, this could not have been a more fitting introduction to our work at AACTE.

The report, released by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann Foundation, casts new light on U.S. students’ performance on international assessments, controlling for social and economic factors that have not been previously studied alongside student achievement on this scale. The results highlight the relatively strong academic achievement of America’s students in spite of our nation’s poor performance in providing supports to help offset the widespread social and economic effects of poverty.

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