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Overhauling Teacher Preparation

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On August 25th, Dave Dimmet wrote about teacher quality and the future of the profession. He mentioned that training of teachers is dominated by universities who prepare pre-professional teachers to meet the licensure requirements of a given state, and asks what role post-secondary institutions play in identifying and preparing future leaders. He ends his essay acknowledging that in order to meet the needs of our savvy and sophisticated students, and to prepare them to thrive in the complex world in which they live, we must transform the K-12 learning environment and consistently identify, support, and incentivize high quality teaching.

As a testament to the urgency of this matter, the Bush Foundation (a private grantmaking foundation serving Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota dedicated to the human services) has committed to the development of highly effective new teachers in order to increase educational achievement for all students and close achievement gaps. Their goal is to increase by 50% the number of students in pre-kindergarten through grade twelve who are on track to earn a degree after high school, as well as eliminating the achievement gap. Their charge is to deliver 25,000 effective new teachers by 2018. Thus, the Bush Foundation has given 16 colleges and universities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota the challenge to collaboratively come up with a completely out-of-the-box overhaul of the way the institutions recruit, prepare, place, and support the states’ teachers. The foundation has $675 million dollars to invest in various projects, and one of them is to engage higher education in the transformation of teacher preparation and support it through the year 2018.

After many long days of collaborative discussion among the various institutions of higher education, there are several proposals on the table for consideration. As a partner with St. Catherine University, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Private Urban College Collaborative, which is comprised of six private colleges located in Minneapolis and St.Paul, who worked together during the past several months to put together one of the proposals for consideration. This proposal includes actively recruiting highly qualified traditional and non-traditional students, a residency program modeled after the medical profession, a master teacher institute to train highly-effective classroom teachers to become highly-effective mentor teachers, and a support system that follows students through their probationary teaching period. There are twelve pages of details, which, if our proposal is accepted, I will outline in my next submission. The proposal will be presented, along with several others, at a teacher preparation partner summit later this month. It will be interesting to hear all of the proposals and then find out which of the ones submitted by the various groups representing the three states will be accepted and funded. Stay tuned for the updates on this very exciting opportunity.

3 Comments

In working with new teachers, here is a quick proposal: while matching them with Master teachers is a great first step, move them forward to this: first year teachers would co-teach with their master teacher for an entire school year (and don't change the student-teacher ratio).

Thanks for this great post about the work of the Bush Foundation to improve educational achievement in MN, ND and SD.

One clarification--while the Foundation's asset base is in the $675 million range, it does not have those funds available to fund programs. IRS rules require foundations to payout 5% of the value of their assets each year. In 2009, the Foundation expects to make payments totaling approx. $30 million.

This $30 million supports our educational achievement efforts but also grants made under our legacy programs (pre-2008) and on the other two goals of our Goals for a Decade--to develop courageous leaders and engage entire communities in solving programs and to support the self-determination of Native nations.

Learn more about www.bushfoundation.org.

Victoria Tirrel, Communications Associate, Bush Foundation

Hope that all this money and effort won't go into reinventing natural learning faddish efforts that fail every time they recycle. Students most negatively impacted by current education practices fostered in teacher colleges are those from poverty who don't have access to the tutoring that is so prevalent in more affluent suburbs to compensate when children don’t learn naturally.

To ignore Barak Rosenshine's research on teacher effectiveness, NICHCY/Shaywitz's research, Daniel Willingham's cognitive psychology research synthesis, or Project Follow Through/Abecedarian research on effective early childhood instruction for children from poverty is to repeat the failures of the past 20 years.

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