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CLIMATE CHANGE: Supporting Great Teaching Is Key to A Positive School Climate and Academic Success for At-Risk Students, Finds New Alliance Report

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“Students in the most challenged schools benefit most from teachers who possess the ‘know how’ to create positive learning environments,” said Bob Wise, Alliance president and former governor of West Virginia.

With schools implementing higher academic standards that require engaging and effective teaching, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education in partnership with the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign finds that far too many low-income students and students of color do not have access to great teaching that supports a positive school environment. The report, Climate Change: Improving School Climate by Supporting Great Teaching, asserts that teachers do not always have the preparation and support needed to develop these skills.

“Students in the most challenged schools benefit most from teachers who possess the ‘know how’ to create positive learning environments,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Unfortunately, many teachers in these schools lack the training and support necessary to create learning environments that are as dynamic inside the classroom as they are in the community and workforce outside the classroom.”

As today’s classrooms continue evolving to prepare students to meet the demands they will face upon high school graduation, the knowledge and skills a teacher possesses become increasingly more important. The report offers recommendations for supporting teachers in creating a positive school climate for all students and represents the final installment in the Alliance’s series of papers on how equitable and effective school discipline policies, equitable access to rigorous and engaging course work, and access to effective teaching work together to create a positive school climate.

Citing data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the report states that schools with the highest enrollment of African American or Latino students are almost twice as likely to employ teachers with less than two years’ experience in the classroom than schools with the lowest enrollments of these students. Further, students of color and students from low-income families have less access to effective teachers regardless of the criteria used to measure that effectiveness, such as certification, placement, or teaching experience. Because of these factors, the report says establishing a set of rigorous and comprehensive standards for all teachers, and supporting them in meeting those standards, is critical to ensuring that every student has access to great teaching.

The report offers several federal, state-, and local-level policy recommendations to support the teaching needed to create a positive school climate, including the following:

  • Provide incentives for state adoption of an educator performance assessment as part of their certification/licensing requirements and support the development of minimum standards for state-based teacher licensure policies.
  • Provide early-career teachers with opportunities to participate in residency, induction, and mentoring programs in an effort to provide support and build capacity.
  • Use school, teacher, and student data to assess the working conditions within each school; identify areas of improvement; and implement responsive strategies.
  • Provide opportunities for teachers to develop culturally relevant competencies and strategies for teaching diverse learners.
  • Provide professional development to support the implementation of equitable and effective approaches to school discipline.

“The nation’s ability to build a more diverse, talented, and sustainable teaching force will determine whether all schools will meet their original intent as social engines for opportunity, innovation, and the creation of a strong democracy,” said Wise.

On September 18, the Alliance held a webinar on the report that featured Jonathan Cohen, cofounder and president of the National School Climate Center; Martens Roc, policy and advocacy associate with the Alliance for Excellent Education; Rachel Santos, teacher representative for the American Federation of Teachers; and Joaquín Tamayo, special assistant to the assistant secretary in the office of elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education. The panelists offered suggestions on how to prepare and support teachers in developing these types of relationships and creating a positive school environment. They also discussed federal and local efforts to address these issues. Archived video from the webinar is available at https://all4ed.org/webinar-event/sep-18-2014/.

Climate Change: Improving School Climate by Supporting Great Teaching is available at https://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/climatechange4/.

All of the reports in the Alliance’s Climate Change series are available online at https://all4ed.org/?s=&category=school-climate&show_only=reports-factsheets.

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