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SILVER LINING OF AN OTHERWISE DARK CLOUD?: Teaching Field Experiences Rush of Applicants as Economic Downturn Continues

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the economic downturn has led many people to shun the tumultuous world of technology and business in favor of the relatively stable environment that the teaching profession provides. This migration, combined with better recruitment and attractive incentives for teachers, has meant large increases in teacher applicant pools for school districts around the country. L.A. Unified, for example, received 25,000 applications for 2,500 positions this year.

Despite the boon for school districts, experts caution that the teacher shortage is far from over. One in three new teachers will leave the classroom within three years. A recent report from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future found that one third of teachers quit during their first three years and almost half leave within five. The most disturbing fact is that the turnover rate for teachers is highest in poor, predominantly minority schools. The reasons vary and include low pay, poor training, and lack of support services from school districts.

According to several recent studies, the key to preventing a teacher shortage is to keep working teachers happy and in the classroom longer to prevent the constant replacement of teachers. In its report, New Teacher Excellence: Retaining Our Best, the Alliance recommends that school districts provide well-organized induction programs for all new teachers.

The report argues that these programs allow school districts to hire, keep, and professionally develop new teachers who meet their state’s definition of “qualified” and possess a major in the subject they will teach, regardless of whether they were trained in a traditional or alternative teacher preparation program before they began teaching. Induction programs, when combined with financial incentives, such as a federal tax credits, student-loan-forgiveness programs, or college scholarships, will help districts to not only attract qualified teachers, but, more importantly, encourage the teachers to stay.

For more information, read “Teacher Shortage Abates” in the Los Angeles Times.

A License to Lead?: A New Leadership Agenda for America’s SchoolsIn a new report, Frederick M. Hess argues that school districts nationwide need to revamp principal and superintendent recruitment strategies and begin to look for qualified candidates outside the education field. The report, A License to Lead: A New Leadership Agenda for America’s Schools, borrows strategies from teacher recruitment and applies them to principal and superintendent hires.

According to the report, two different camps of leadership reform have emerged: One camp supports raising qualifications needed for entry into the profession. The other camp favors recruiting a few high-profile individuals from outside of the education field. According to Hess, “neither approach addresses the long-term challenge of deepening the talent pool, enhancing accountability, and providing sustained support to talented practitioners in the field and to those who would join them.”

Hess analyzes the current licensure system and the shortcomings of current reform strategies. He also describes his idea of a “New Leadership Agenda” which would reconceptualize leadership, produce performance-oriented criteria for recruiting and hiring leaders, develop reliable systems to monitor leadership performance and hold leaders accountable, and provide support systems and ongoing professional development.

The complete report is available through the Progressive Policy Institute.

Taking “STEPs” Toward Teacher Excellence

The Council for Basic Education (CBE) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education released a resource guide for helping institutions implement a highly successful program called “Standards-based Teacher Education Project (STEP).” The program offers guidance and support to Arts and Sciences and Education faculty as they redesign teacher preparation programs by using K-12 academic standards and new teacher licensure standards to strengthen program requirements, courses, and assessments.

STEP embodies three principles: 1) Teachers must know the subjects they are teaching; 2) Teachers must know how to teach students to learn at high levels; and 3) Teachers must know how to monitor and assess how well students are learning. Twenty-five campuses in five states have implemented the STEP program, which incorporates P-12 academic content standards into teacher education programs to improve the requirements, curriculum courses, and assessments required of teachers-to-be.

The STEP Web site hosts a report that profiles eleven of the campuses and acts as a “buffet” of “information and expertise” for anyone who wishes to learn about or implement the STEP program. It not only outlines the underlying structure of STEP and the process of implementation, but discusses STEP as a tool for changing national and state measures of accountability and teacher quality. The report also offers the perspective of state education officials and national leaders.

To learn more about STEP, visit CBE’s Web site at: http://www.c-b-e.org/teachered/step.htm.

 

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