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DOE Jumpstarting Teacher Training

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The Delaware Department of Education recently published a Request for Proposal (RFP) to catalyze educator training program improvements within Delaware institutes of higher education.

The RFP, which was released in early April and due at the end of May, is open to all educator training programs and builds off of Senate Bill 51, which recently passed both chambers and is awaiting the signature of Governor Markell. In order to be competitive for the RFP, training programs must demonstrate how they will better recruit and select candidates, provide rigorous coursework and clinical practice, and establish exit criteria that demonstrate readiness to assume responsibility for a classroom of students. If selected, programs can implement the “pilot” program in school years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 as new criteria begin to take effect.

It is extremely heartening to see Delaware take the lead nationally and begin the difficult work of designing world-class teacher preparation for our educators – which will no doubt reap tremendous benefits for our students.

Moore’s Law Coming to a Classroom Near You

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Moore’s Law is pretty straightforward – technology capacity doubles almost every two years. Looking back, it’s clear that the theory has been uncannily accurate, with all of us scrambling just to keep up with the pace of technology’s development and applicability to our daily lives.

As covered previously, it seemed like technology has yet to have that sort of compounding impact on education. However, based on events of the past couple weeks, maybe Moore’s Law is coming to a classroom, school, or even home near you much sooner than we realize.

For starters, Coursera, one of a few Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers, announced it will offer free professional development courses to all interested educators. Initial topics range from strategies to help you be successful as a novice teacher, utilizing formative assessments to ensure math instruction aligns to the Common Core, to incorporating positive psychology to increase student engagement and achievement. Looking at the list of topics and providers, two things become glaringly apparent. First, educators, regardless of zip code, are going to be able to learn from the best, whether it’s unpacking student motivation from KIPP’s Dave Levin or digging deep into various science topics from the American Museum of Natural History. And second, as Delaware educators begin to voluntarily enroll in MOOCs and see (or don’t see) value – are we going to start seeing credit given for completion? And while these are free initially, will districts and/or schools be willing to pay for their teachers’ enrollment in the future?

In addition to development, an initiative to extend the reach of great teachers to more students is starting to take root – with astonishing interest from educators. Project L.I.F.T (Leadership and Investment for Transformation), a public/private initiative that works with Opportunity Culture in Charlotte, had 708 applications for 28 positions for its initial cohort of teacher leaders! Those numbers alone demonstrate that teachers are hungry for opportunities to grow professionally. In addition to Charlotte, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Clark County School District (Las Vegas) are working with Opportunity Culture to expand similar initiatives to their districts. Many of the benefits educators experience working in these types of environments can be found in Digital Learning Now!’s recently released report Improving Conditions and Careers: How Blended Learning Can Improve the Teaching Profession.

And last, the National Education Association is encouraging teachers to lend their voice in highlighting the positive and negatives associated with various assessments used within our schools through Teach Plus’ Assessment Advisor. The partnership between the NEA and Teach Plus is unique and represents an extraordinary opportunity for teachers to share their expertise directly with both each other and external folks. This collaboration is one of the first (among hopefully many) times groups that are seemingly at odds partner to empower educators to solve our most pressing issues. Whether it’s rating assessments in partnership with Teach Plus or working with the National Center of Time and Learning to provide extended learning opportunities for kids, it’s clear that there are areas in which agreement is within reach and collaboration can help provide better educational experiences for all our students. 

Hopefully, these aren’t just one-offs and point to something much bigger – a world in which teachers, students, and others embrace the power of technology to drive improvement within our schools. I know Moore would be excited to see his theory start to take root within our schools, clearly expanding the benefits we’ve all experienced outside of classrooms to our students and teachers.

Let’s Not Leave Teachers’ Effectiveness to Chance

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As a new teacher, we all understand – the first year inside a classroom is hard. Really hard. It’s a time when we go from imagining what our classroom might look like to the reality of getting it done day in and day out. However, when we look at our schools today, it’s clear that very few people, if any, give it the attention it deserves – leaving teachers’ development and effectiveness to chance. 

Recognizing this reality, TNTP sought to find out what new teacher performance looked like and what it takes to improve novice educator’s craft inside classrooms. The findings can be found in their recently released report, Leap Year. The report summarizes the results of their Assessment of Classroom Effectiveness (ACE), which utilizes multiple data points, including classroom observations, student surveys, student growth data, and principal ratings in order to determine the overall effectiveness of the over 1,000 novice teachers in 15 TNTP programs throughout the country.

For starters, not all teachers start off the same. Some walk in and perform well from the start. Some need a lot of support in order to improve. However, where a teacher starts is a pretty good predictor of what their growth trajectory will look like throughout the year. And, more importantly, the multiple measures ACE utilizes tend to point towards the same conclusion about a teacher’s impact inside the classroom. In addition to where they start and finish, certain characteristics are predictive of how they’ll grow in between. First year teachers that can predict students’ needs, design and facilitate structured lessons, and utilize deep content expertise are more likely to grow and be successful than their peers.  

What’s really interesting, though, is how TNTP restructured their new teacher support this year to ensure they got the “launch” skills necessary for classroom success. These include maintaining high academic and behavioral expectations, delivering academic content clearly, and maximizing instructional time. Based on current results, teachers who master those subsequently master all other ACE components – demonstrating the importance of the fundamentals of teaching.

Looking at the results, I’m extremely heartened by two recent developments here in Delaware. First, with the unveiling of legislation aimed at improving teacher preparation, Delaware is fixating our eyes right on many of the issues outlined in this report. Through high-quality student teaching experiences, rigorous content exams to ensure content knowledge, and expansion of programs with track records of success, we are poised to raise the bar on the quality of our teaching workforce – which will pay immeasurable dividends for our students. And second, with the release of the report Delaware Educator Diagnostic, An Analysis of the First State’s Teaching Force, we are starting to get a better understanding of teachers working in our schools and areas we need to address as a state.

Looking ahead, I’m all smiles as I start to see significant interest in and movement towards ensuring the training is right and supports in place to ensure all novice educators have a launching pad capable of propelling them to success in their first year and beyond.

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