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Calif. Teacher College Pledges Assistance for Graduates Via Hotline

In today's busy world, there are hotlines for just about every challenge, from a dye job gone wrong to a Thanksgiving turkey that won't defrost. Now, a teacher college is running with the idea to extend a helping hand to its graduates.

The University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education today pledged that it will make assistance available for anyone struggling on the job through a "rapid response" hotline.

For instance, if a Rossier graduate gets a "needs improvement" on a particular teaching skill during his evaluation, or is struggling to work with English-learners, she'll be able to call a hotline telephone number and reach a Rossier staffer who will provide immediate assistance. Eventually, each teacher who reaches out will also receive an improvement plan devised by staff.

Help could include being given tips and strategies and being directed to research or resources online; in California, it could also include having a faculty member visit to provide on-the-ground assistance. And in other locations, mentor teachers could provide counseling. (Many USC teachers are prepared in its Masters of Arts in Teaching, a program in which coursework is online. The university's partner in the endeavor maintains a network of mentors who oversee student-teaching.)     

USC's teacher-preparation programs have expanded significantly since 2009, particularly through the online M.A.T., as I recently reported for Education Week. But educators in other degree programs, such as the Ed.D., and its counseling programs, will also be able to access the hotline. The rapid-response team will be staffed by at least one faculty member from each master's degree program.

In an interview, Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher said that the Rossier Commitment, as it's being called, is not only to stand by its graduates, but also to make sure that its current programming is getting the job done.

"What better way to get feedback than if we find teachers aren't not 100% ready to go, or if they find themselves in a new situation and need help?" she said in an interview. 

The program will extend to all graduates, even those that predate the M.A.T. And while it's hard to predict what kinds of problems alumni might have, Gallagher expects that classroom management, working with students with exceptionalities, and preparing for the Common Core could be areas teachers might need extra help on.

She said USC doesn't yet know how alumni will make use of the service in its first few months of operation. 

"We don't think we're going to have a lot, but we don't really know. If we get dozens and dozens of calls, then we have a problem" to address in preservice preparation, she said.

It is not clear whether any other university offers a similar service, or otherwise retrains teachers who feel they're not adequately prepared. If you know of any, please do post a comment below and let us all know, or e-mail me directly by clicking beneath my picture in the right corner above. 

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