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Charters Stepping Up to Train Teachers

A number of charter and public school networks have begun to train teachers, a phenomenon that adds an interesting wrinkle to the teacher-preparation debate.

Generally, these programs use a hands-on approach to training, giving the prospective teachers an introduction to the values and the often-intense culture in those systems.

The Aspire Public Schools charter network has an arrangement with the University of the Pacific. It began the second year of its teacher-residency program this fall, with 19 new candidates on board. Candidates get priority for placement in one of the Aspire schools and commit to working in the charter network for four years.

New Visions for Public Schools, a network of 76 public schools (including two charters) in New York City, now trains educators through a partnership with the city's Hunter College. Graduates of the 14-month teacher-residency program have an opportunity to work in a New Visions school and are asked to commit to four years of teaching in such schools.

Finally, the Success Charter Network in New York City uses a program called the "T-School" to train and provide professional development to newly minted teachers, returning teachers, and those new to the SCN network. In essence, the program has the teachers observe lessons taught by school leaders and then have a chance to replicate those techniques with small groups of students, and to be coached in real time by experienced colleagues.

What's particularly interesting about these approaches to teacher training is that they give these school networks an opportunity to see candidates over the course of their training, something that probably gives them a lot better sense about each individual's instructional strengths and shortcomings. That's a much richer mine of information than what's typically gathered during the recruiting process.

As a source once pointed out to me, the hiring practices in place in most districts often don't give a lot of information about teaching skills—resumes and background checks, after all, only tell you that a teacher applicant holds a bachelors' degrees and isn't a criminal.

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