Policy

By Liam Goldrick, Director of Policy

A key characteristic of great teachers is their knowledge that there's always room to grow. That's no different from what we expect of our students.

In her book, Building a Better Teacher, Chalkbeat's Elizabeth Green has sparked many thoughtful conversations by taking readers on a journey to understand precisely what makes a teacher great. She addresses the age-old question: Are great teachers born or made? Green concludes that they're made -- and that there's more nuance within teaching than simply being "good" or "bad." 

Green also criticizes prevailing philosophies to improving teaching.

"The cold truth is that accountability and autonomy ... have left us with no real plan," Green writes. 

Policymakers, educators, education reformers and pundits have long debated the merits of either system. Both recognize the research that the single biggest factor of student success in schools is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. But both often ignore teachers' need for intensive, on-the-job learning -- a pathway to improve and become the great teachers our students deserve.

We have known how to develop teachers for years. New Teacher Center's approach to inducting beginning teachers aligns with the best practices identified by researchers.

The truth is that great teachers aren't born and are never completely "made" -- but continuously develop over the course of their careers. There is no such thing as a finished product when it comes to highly effective teachers. Talented, experienced teachers are reflective, curious and persistent. Like their students, they are learners, too.

It is our hope that all teachers have the opportunity to come into the profession through intensive pre-service programs, segue seamlessly into induction programs contextualized to meet their unique needs as novice educators, and receive opportunities within districts and schools for career-long professional learning.

The reality is that such comprehensive, high-impact approaches to individualized teacher learning and on-the-job support are not the norm in American schools. NTC is doing its part however. In recent years, we've expanded our reach to support the development of about 26,000 new teachers annually.

Federal and state policies too seldom support proven approaches to developing beginning teachers. While the federal government and certain states have seeded high-quality induction through competitive grant programs, the quality requirements and dedicated time for educator development are sorely lacking for most new teachers. For example, only three U.S. states require and fund multi-year induction programs for beginning teachers. And the federal government spends nearly $3 billion annually on teacher professional development -- without quality standards.

I had the opportunity to participate on an Education Writers Association panel this past fall that addressed the role of teacher induction in contributing to better teaching. (That same convening featured a session with Green discussing her book. The video is available on YouTube.)

At the event, I argued that we must improve our policies and practices -- aligning them with what works. Teachers need mentors and coaches to help them successfully hone and expand their instructional strategies within the context of their school and classroom. If no one is there to mediate the change, the change will not be successful.

Green's book sets us up to ask, "So now what?" Where do we take what we know about preparing and developing teachers and scale it?

From the U.S. government on down to individual schools, we need policies and systems that support the growth of all teachers. They should include:

  1. High quality, multi-year induction programs for beginning teachers. There is going to be a huge influx of beginning teachers into the workforce in the coming years. These teachers have unique needs and accelerating their effectiveness through intensive mentoring has proven to increase student achievement and retain them in the classroom longer.
     
  2. High quality, multi-year induction programs for beginning school leaders and coaching for all school leaders. Similar to beginning teachers, new school leaders have a unique set of needs. Effective school leaders create school cultures and teaching conditions necessary for educators to thrive.
     
  3. Instructional improvement hinges on sustained and targeted feedback. Expert teachers, carefully selected and trained as mentors and instructional coaches, are the mechanism for such feedback and support.
     
  4. With greater access to online professional learning, we need to shift our conception of what professional development looks like (one size fits all) to personalized learning pathways for all educators.

What do you think it's going to take for us to get there?

Comments

Um, even terrible teachers

Um, even terrible teachers are
"never done learning." This isn't a matter of effort or talent or hard work. Just by living we learn new things all the time.

Free fun geometry wikispace-in-progress

I was a student of Ellen Moir at UCSC... skip ahead 'some' years: and I'm retired from classroom teaching but always learning and sharing, especially Geometry and STEM/STEAM:
https://hsgeometryadventure.wikispaces.com/
http://artsandeducationadventure.wikispaces.com/
http://maliafrica-pastandpresent.wikispaces.com/

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