[article] 'Young teachers: Talented, eager—and lost in the shuffle' -PiPress

There are many issues around young teachers that deserve comment here.

The article mentions shrinking budgets (in Atlanta), career opportunity ("Not many things get me thinking about teaching 10 or 20 years from now and not feeling complacent"), leadership opportunities for teachers (an even more thankless job), and funding for a teacher evaluation system (from the union prez no less).

But there are others.

What about the role of teacher trainers and in preparing young teachers for the profession? What about policies such as LIFO ("Last In, First Out") that handcuff school administrators, who should be responsible for making hiring and firing decisions? What about communities that should engage with their schools to support teachers and students in whatever way they can?


Source: http://www.twincities.com/education/ci_225...

My take on Diane Ravitch's message to KIPP, TFA

[REEP, KIPP and TFA Lecture Series from Jon Paul Estrada on Vimeo]

Diane Ravitch (NYU Ed Researcher) recently gave a talk at my alma mater (Rice University) at an event sponsored by the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP), KIPP:Houston, and Teach For America. During this talk, she takes on some of the biggest issues in the reform movement - value-added assessment, Race To The Top, charter schools, and alternative certification. (For a brief review of the talk, check out Valerie Strauss's WaPo blog.) Ravitch speaks candidly and intelligently on each of these topics.

"We need to improve education, not replace it," she states, in reference to recent reform efforts that emphasize assessment, merit pay, and "free market" approaches. She also tells us that merit pay is an old idea that's been around since the 1920s, going on to cite a recent study from Vanderbilt that showed that it doesn't make a difference (using random assignment). 

She pushes KIPP and TFA to distance themselves from the charter and alternative certification movements, noting that these are not sustainable education reform solutions. I generally agree, but with a few caveats...

KIPP and the Charter School Movement

Charter schools offer a platform for us to test the effectiveness of school-level systems and provide choice for parents and students. That said, replacing all schools with charters is not the solution. As Ravitch points out, charter schools, on the whole, do not show higher student achievement than "traditional" schools, and many of them are worse. But some of them, like KIPP, do work. Baby, bathwater, etc.

To use a nerdy analogy, you can think of charter schools as the "Open API" of the school system. The platform itself is the public school system (a Pew poll a few years ago showed that about half of the US thinks that charter schools aren't public, so I make the point here). Charter schools are "apps" that work inside the system to try to make it better - again, by (a) providing options to parents and students and (b) testing new techniques that might someday be incorporated into the larger system.

So yes, KIPP should separate themselves from the "educational robber barons, dilettantes, and incompetents" that running some of our charters, but it should also embrace the fact that without a charter school movement, they wouldn't exist. Let's stop talking about charters vs. non-charters. Let's just talk about schools vs. schools.

High and Mighty TFA

Ravitch claims that if she were graduating from college today, she would be inspired to apply for TFA. But she quickly turns around to urges TFA to "please stop claiming that TFA will close the achievement gap... no one can teach for 2 or 3 years and close the achievement gap."

I agree. But my understanding of the TFA is grossly misaligned with Ravitch's. My understanding of TFA's message is not that "smart people working in tough schools for 2 or 3 years is enough." Rather, TFA's message to me (and the one posted on their website) is that you can have an immediate impact in the classroom if you work hard, your experience will help you understand the achievement gap and educational issues better, and the educational system needs to people inside and outside school walls to care and work to increase the status quo.

I've heard Tom Dooher, Education Minnesota's President, claim something similar during an MPR interview (to paraphrase, "TFA has been around for 20 years, but the achievement gap still exists"). It is entirely possible (and likely) that the public's perception of TFA is that of a bunch of Pollyannaish young people trying to save the world. If TFA does in fact believe that "their efforts are sufficient" and that "schools don't need additional resources," then I'd agree with Ravitch that showing some humility is in order.

(On a side note, I think TFA's slogan should be: "To improve American education so that we don't need Teach For America.")

But Diane, what have you done recently?

With all due respect to Ms. Ravitch, I ask, "Do we really need another Ivory Tower professor telling us what's wrong with education today and naysaying any attempt to improve it?"

While I respect her independent and intelligent thinking, I cannot recall her providing a single suggestion of a systemic solution for education. She spent an hour talking about what doesn't work in education and indicting people that are working on the hardest problems in education today.

But then again, maybe that's Ravitch's point - there is no single solution, there is no one systemic change that will make education perfect. Maybe that point has slipped past all of us, and that's why we need people like Ravitch to remind us of these things.

Alternative Education for Teachers Gaining Ground [NY Times]

“We’re at a huge frontier when it comes to understanding learning,” she said. “Divorcing teacher preparation from this research would suggest to me that you would prepare doctors with hands-on tools without their benefiting from medical research.”

La Toya C. K. Caton, 26, of Baldwin, N.Y., decided to become a teacher after she was laid off as a systems analyst. Last spring, she applied to Teach for America but withdrew at the last minute, enrolling at Teachers College instead. “During that time I was a substitute teacher in middle school and high school, and I felt that more training was necessary,” said Ms. Caton, who will complete her master’s in May.

“Teachers College really provides you with an amazing opportunity to learn from supportive teachers,” said Ms. Caton, now a student-teacher at Public School 180, the Hugo Newman School, in Harlem. “They really act as mentors. They’ve given me the space to become the teacher I want to be.”

Dr. Steiner said that the alternative groups would have to shape their own certification programs subject to Regents approval. While those programs would involve some theoretical classroom learning, he said, they would be “given some relief from the traditional constraints of course credits and hours.”

“We believe there are a few institutions that have earned their right to the table,” he said, although he declined to identify them. “They would be held to exactly the same performance assessment that the traditional schools of education would be held to.”

A spokeswoman for Teach for America, which has 800 new teachers enlisted in its two-year program in 300 schools in New York City, said the group would consider submitting a plan for a certification program.

Some education schools have already seen a drop in their application numbers as a result of the allure of alternative programs, though the effect has been blunted by the recession, which has helped fill up graduate schools in general. In a weak economy, alternative programs are especially attractive because participants can earn a regular starting salary from the outset while also receiving a discount on tuition for a master’s degree.

In contrast, annual tuition for a master’s degree program at a public university like City College of New York costs $7,360, while tuition at a prestigious private institution like Teachers College runs $26,040 for a full course load. (For a student living in a dormitory, Teachers College puts the total cost for nine months of study, including tuition, books, fees, room, board and other expenses, at $63,196.)

In Brooklyn, Dan Cosgrove, 24, is now in his second year with Teach for America, teaching fourth grade at Leadership Prep Bedford-Stuyvesant Charter School. He joined Teach for America after graduating from Trinity College, unsure which career path to follow but eager to right the social inequalities he had studied as a sociology major.

Despite a grueling schedule (teaching all week and pursuing a master’s degree on weekends and in the summer), Mr. Cosgrove is sold on teaching. At Leadership Prep, classrooms have co-teachers, which has helped him develop classroom-management skills.

“It’s incredibly challenging and difficult, but it’s also extremely rewarding,” he said. “I think the best way to learn is by watching people here and being in all kinds of situations.”

[via Mark Lewis]

Alternative certification isn't just an issue in Minnesota...

The tension between alternative certification programs and traditional schools of education is tenable, but they boil down to philosophical differences. It's interesting that schools of education are appealing to philosophy rather than research.

What education schools can learn from TFA

In a recent address given at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College (October 22), Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for “revolutionary change” in teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities. I agree with the Secretary that while good education schools exist, the vast majority are not pulling their weight in preparing teachers for the classrooms in which they will teach.

I am usually hesitant to pronounce my Teach For America alumni status (NYC ’04), particularly in education circles, due to the polarizing nature of the program – you love it or you hate it. I often temper any praise I have for the program with a comment regarding teacher attrition rates, “crash course” teacher education, or Pollyannaish college graduate applicants. But in light of the Secretary’s recent comments on teacher preparation, I think that traditional teacher education programs looking to make “revolutionary changes” can learn a few things from the TFA model.

Too often, colleges of education have a “take what we can get” policy of recruitment. Teacher education programs should not simply be more selective, but should work hard to draw more and “highly qualified” potential applicants to the field.

TFA spends 20 percent of its nearly $40 million budget on recruiting applicants; TFA applications were up 42% this year to 35,000 applicants for 4,000 spots (arguably due to the current economic climate). Teacher education programs are also seeing increases, but hardly of the same magnitude – Teacher’s College saw a 6% increase in applicants this year.

While TFA’s recruitment and selection process has flaws (bias towards high-achieving, white, middle-class applicants, for one), its strength is in targeting recruitment efforts at people and personalities that they believe are suited to teaching in high-needs schools.

Teacher education programs would do well to allocate more resources to actively pursuing “highly qualified” applicants that they feel fit their models for effective teachers. They might also think about new ways of offering applicants incentives to join their program, either through funding, placement, or prestige.

Most TFA corps members will tell you two things after their summer institute (“crash course”) experience: (1) they are physically and mentally exhausted, and (2) if they have to fill out another feedback survey, they might snap. TFA constantly gathers feedback (both from within and outside the organization) and takes that feedback very seriously.

If you have looked at changes in TFA’s teacher preparation materials over the past 5 years, this point is abundantly clear. Based on feedback data, TFA staff members have dedicated significant time and energy to create materials and training that are useful for new teachers, particularly for teaching in high-needs schools.

Curriculum and instruction at traditional teacher preparation programs tend to be driven by the philosophical ideals or research agendas of faculty members, with little regard to what is practical for their graduates. Gathering and using feedback not only improves the curriculum and training, but also provides a model for “using data to improve instruction,” a shortcoming cited by Secretary Duncan. In addition to teaching teachers how to do this in their classrooms, this practice should be utilized in teacher education programs.

TFA teachers are often cited as products of “trial by fire,” but this is not completely accurate. TFA has an extensive network of Program Directors (PDs) whose sole job is to provide support for teachers in their first and second years of teaching. This support is invaluable to new teachers; education schools should take on the responsibility of providing it to their graduates.

If we take seriously the Race to the Top criteria that will “reward states that publicly report and link student achievement data to the programs where teachers and principals were credentialed,” education schools will have to do more than simply administer coursework. This change might prove to be the most “revolutionary” for teacher education programs because many are not currently structured to provide extensive on-the-job support.

TFA’s Program Director model might provide guidance; recent TFA alumni are typically hired for PD positions. Education schools might consider recruiting recent alumni into paid positions where they provide support (in line with the education school’s curriculum) to the growth and development of new teachers.

While I am certain that the TFA will continue to be scrutinized for its shortcomings by teacher education experts (and rightfully so), I strongly believe that the program’s growth and relative success warrants a closer look at what TFA has to offer traditional teacher education programs.

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