2:00 pm – 4:45 pm EDT Resources for the Future, 1st Fl., Conference Ctr. 1616 P Street, N.W. Washington, DC
PRESENTERS (in alphabetical order)
Adriane E.L Dorrington, Senior Program Analyst, Teacher Quality, National Education Association
Leslie Fenwick, Dean, College of Education, Howard University
Curtis Hill, Alumnus, Academy for Urban School Leadership (Chicago, IL)
Lisa Kurtz, Alumna, Teacher Preparation Program, University of Michigan
Jennifer Stern, Executive Director of Teacher Effectiveness Performance Management, Denver Public Schools
On November 3, one hundred and fifteen educators, policymakers, and other key stakeholders gathered in Washington, DC to attend a panel discussion about teacher preparation. The event was held to release the Alliance for Excellent Education’s publication titled Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction, which was made possible through generous support from MetLife Foundation.
Elizabeth Schneider, interim vice president of policy for the Alliance, began the discussion with opening remarks, noting that while there has been an increase in the number of events focusing on teacher-related topics in Washington, DC, one cannot stress the importance of teachers too often. She framed the discussion in the context of the Race to the Top federal competitive grant program which rewards states for innovative practices in education reform. Ms. Schneider clarified that the call for teacher performance data in the brief and in the panel discussion was not a call for increased teacher accountability measures or performance pay but the opportunity to increase teacher effectiveness. She closed by noting that a mere supplement to professional development would not be adequate to address the changing needs of our nation’s students and their teachers; a shift in pre-service practices is necessary.
M Miller, a consultant on teacher-related policy issues for the Alliance and author of the policy brief Teaching for a New World, began her overview of the brief with a quote from Arthur Levine that highlighted the need for teacher preparation to change if it is to meet the expectations this country now holds for all of its students and all of their teachers. Ms. Miller continued by outlining the key points in the policy brief, which include: college and career readiness as one high standard for all students; a focus on evaluating teacher candidates by what they are able to do rather than what courses they have taken; the skills teachers need in order to effectively educate the diverse student populations they serve; the use of performance assessments and data systems which allow for teacher preparation programs to improve their practice; and the following federal policy recommendations:
- Incentivize states to evaluate teacher preparation programs by teacher performance instead of by course work.
- Encourage the creation of performance-based assessments.
- Support effective programs and close ineffective programs.
- Build and enhance robust data systems.
- Invest in research.
A discussion panel followed that provided examples of the different elements of a good teacher preparation pipeline.
Leslie Fenwick, the dean of the college of education at Howard University, discussed innovation within traditional programs, such as Howard University’s teacher preparation program. She highlighted the program’s commitment to research that is targeted towards explicitly interrupting the negative influences on pre-kindergarten through grade twelve African American male students. Howard University also addresses the lack of diversity of teachers through its Ready to Teach program, funded by the US Department of Education. This program is designed to increase the proportion of African American male teachers in the system from its current 2 percent. Dr. Fenwick closed by emphasizing that the school needs to be the center of the socioeconomic transformation of the community and that teacher preparation should reflect that; she noted that Howard University accomplishes this for its teacher candidates by offering a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary program that addresses the social and psychological issues students frequently face.
Lisa Kurtz, a secondary school math teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI and an alumna of the University of Michigan’s teacher preparation program, highlighted the importance of literacy instruction in teacher preparation, regardless of the teacher’s intended academic discipline. Using numerous examples from the work her own students are tasked with every day, she demonstrated the need for teachers to be able to support their students in reading content-specific vocabulary and in “making meaning” from a text. Within the discipline of math specifically, Ms. Kurtz noted that charts, graphs, tables, and equations also demand a certain kind of literacy of students, which is the duty of their math teacher to provide. Accordingly, she closed by urging that all teachers leave their preparation program with an awareness of the content-specific literacy needs of their students.
Curtis Hill, a multi-grade reading, writing, and social studies teacher at the Dulles School for Excellence and an alumnus of the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago, focused on the importance of instruction that is sensitive to students’ needs. He noted that the ability to tailor instruction in such a manner is a skill possessed by the best teachers. Mr. Hill began his presentation in stark contrast to this, with a brief story about himself as a boy facing numerous non-academic challenges who was told by his secondary school teacher that he would not amount to anything. Proceeding with examples from his own interactions with his students at Dulles, Mr. Hill argued that students must be taught socially and emotionally before they can be taught academically. In his school 99 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch and 95 percent live in housing projects connected to the school itself. Mr. Hill stressed that a teacher must not only know what he or she is teaching, but more importantly must know who he or she is teaching; a teacher must be able to understand a student’s non-academic needs in order to successfully address that student’s academic ones.
Jennifer Stern, the executive director of teacher effectiveness performance management for Denver Public Schools, spoke from a district perspective—addressing how a district can ensure that it is getting the best teachers in its schools. She noted that in Denver specifically the district had key shortage areas and limited strategies to get teachers into those areas. Accordingly, Denver pulled together a working group of six Colorado universities plus the alternative preparation programs certifying teachers in the state, as well as those organizations involved with professional development and induction. Ms. Stern noted that this group had never before received teacher performance data for which to improve their programs. The group is currently working collaboratively to develop a diagnostic tool to better assess their graduates and to help one another and the district gain a better understanding of new teacher needs. Denver also implemented a teacher residency program in order to get to know its teachers before they are hired and to get a better sense of the programs producing those teachers. The residency program also has the added benefit of retaining the district’s more experienced teachers by placing them in mentoring roles. Finally, the district initiated a program to train its principals to make better-informed hiring decisions and to better inform preparation programs about the performance of their candidates.
Adriane Dorrington, a senior program analyst on teacher quality for the National Education Association (NEA), addressed common, high-performance standards for all teachers, and expecially noted NEA’s work with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education on this issue. She stressed the importance of designing instruction around students’ skills and interests and of partnering with parents as they are students’ first teachers. Dr. Dorrington called education the “backbone of the nation” and made the analogy that if the problems with the backbone are not addressed, the rest of the body will fall apart. She also spoke to the need for pedagogy specific to a teacher’s content area and for clinical experience, which provides candidates with an environment authentic to the one they will be working in.
During the question and answer period, panelists reiterated the following needs: reengaging schools in a greater socioeconomic turnaround effort and preparing teachers accordingly; ensuring teachers are sensitive to and prepared for the diverse needs of their students; teacher preparation programs and policymakers focusing on outcomes and using that data responsibly and with transparency; and involving practitioners in policy discussions regarding teacher preparation.
Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia, closed the discussion by noting that our most important resource is our children and the education they receive, and that that is directly dependent upon the preparation their teachers receive.
Event-Day Agenda PDF
Speaker Biographies PDF
Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction PDF
Preparing High School Teacher Candidates To Deliver College and Career Ready Instruction (A PowerPoint presentation by M Miller) PDF
Why Literacy? (A PowerPoint presentation by Lisa Kurtz) PDF
Teaching for A New World:Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College-and Career Ready Instruction (A PowerPoint presentation by Adriane E.L. Dorrington) PDF