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Building a Culture that Supports Teachers in a Student-Centered Environment


Tom Carroll, President, National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future
Alan Kostrick, Computer Science Teacher, Hammond High School (Howard County Public School System, Maryland)
Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education

In its recently released paper, The Culture Shift, the Alliance for Excellent Education states that it is imperative to continue to shift the culture of teaching to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Currently, nearly half of all teachers leave the profession in their first five years; this turnover rate costs school districts $7 billion annually and negatively impacts school culture and learning. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) finds that this chronic churn can be ameliorated with the support and professional development that increased collaboration can provide. Teaching and teachers are at the center of the culture shift, which responds to student-centered learning and meets the needs of each student. As instruction shifts from teacher-directed to instruction that is more engaging, interactive, and personalized learning, teachers need support, encouragement, and professional learning that helps them move toward student-centered learning.

NCTAF specifically focuses on a team approach to teaching that draws upon the strengths of teachers, but also from experts in the community, to provide meaningful instruction. NCTAF finds that support, professional development, and collaboration all improve teacher retention and help with the shift to a more student-centered environment.

The Alliance for Excellent Education held a webinar on September 27 with special guest Tom Carroll, president of NCTAF. Mr. Carroll was joined by Alan Kostrick, a computer science and technology teacher in the Howard County Public School System (Maryland) who also participates in the NCTAF Learning Studios. During a conversation withGov. Bob Wise, the panelists focused on how and why to build collaborative communities (face-to-face and online), as well as on the policy implications of increased teacher collaboration. The discussion covered a range of policy changes that are needed to support today’s learning, such as better scheduling, better teacher assignments earlier for next school year, consistent access to online resources, and ensuring access to a wireless network in certain schools.

Panelists also discussed ways to leverage technology to better engage and support teachers and students with examples of relevant content, useful online tools, and lessons learned about how face-to-face collaboration drives and provides content for online collaboration. Panelists also addressed questions submitted by webinar viewers from across the country.

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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance, visit

Categories: Digital Learning Series, Gear: Teaching & Professional Learning

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.