University-School District Partnerships Offer Hope
The lockstep schedules of public school teachers leave little, if any, time for them to learn cutting-edge content about their field. That's why I applaud what The Teachers Institute of Philadelphia is doing ("Penn program gives Philadelphia teachers a boost," penncurrent, Dec. 21).
Although it is not the only such partnership in the nation, TIP is one of the best. Founded in 2006 between the University of Pennsylvania and the School District of Philadelphia, it has helped some 330 K-12 teachers become more effective in the classroom.
When I was teaching English in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the UCLA Graduate School of Education was primarily involved through its student teaching program. (Full disclosure: I was a lecturer in the UCLA Graduate School of Education for two summer sessions and received my B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and my M.S. from UCLA.) What was missing was an ongoing sharing of best practices. I'm not saying that everything university researchers come up with has direct relevance to the classroom. On the contrary, much is far too abstract to be useful. But that's something only classroom teachers are in a position to decide.
TIP is a model in this regard because professors and teachers can engage in a discussion about the practicality of research findings. Because it meets every Tuesday evening for 14 weeks, it can serve as a forum for teachers to bring up issues they face on a daily basis. I was fortunate to have studied under W. James Popham when working on my California teaching credential at UCLA. He had been a public school teacher before becoming a professor. As a result, he dispensed with theory and provided strategies for classroom realities. So many aspiring teachers take classes taught by professors who lack such experience.