A Closer Look at the Sustainable Funding Project

SFP participantAs Jon Snyder recently wrote in his Education Week piece about Bank Street College graduates, “There is no question but that supporting each and every one of our children into and through deeper learning requires expert teaching.”

People at Bank Street College couldn’t agree more, as evidenced by a century of expertise in and commitment to ensuring our graduates have every opportunity to become great teachers. But what would it take to enable every aspiring educator to have access to the kinds of high-quality preparation experiences that Bank Street candidates have?

The Sustainable Funding Project was conceived to address precisely this question. With seed monies from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a small team working out of the Division of Innovation, Policy and Research will develop long-term strategies to establish sustainable streams of public funding to support high-quality teacher preparation programs nationwide. The project addresses what we see as a key barrier to having great teachers in every classroom: sustainable funding to support universally strong teacher preparation.

The reality across the nation is that current funding models incentivize fast and cheap teacher training programs over quality teacher preparation. For candidates who cannot afford high tuition costs or to quit their jobs to participate in student teaching, the attraction of quick routes to the classroom is understandable. Unfortunately, too many programs exist that meet the demand for quick entry into the classroom.

Sadly, these quick routes come with dire costs. Candidates who spend just a few weeks practicing teaching enter the classroom less prepared and are more likely to feel overwhelmed and to leave the field within a few years. Those who do persist are less prepared to become high-quality teachers.

Delivering on high-quality teacher preparation may cost more on the front end, but both evidence and common sense suggest the returns are worth the investment. Candidates prepared in clinically-rich, well-supported models are more likely to stay in teaching, cutting turnover costs in the profession that are currently estimated in the billions. They also are better prepared to promote student learning and development, which not only saves dollars in summer school and retention costs but also provides the return on investment we all want: happy, intelligent, growing students.

By this fall, the Sustainable Funding Project will have identified a state or district that wants to partner with us to implement a long-term plan to establish sustainably funded, high-quality teacher preparation. From the experiences with our partners, we will document what works, explore funding and program model possibilities, and share what we learn. Simultaneously, we’ll be building a national coalition to promote the concepts and practices that can make sustainably funded, high-quality teacher preparation the norm across the nation.

The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Shael Polakow-Suransky, Josh Thomases, Katie Connelly, and Kris Conklin, whose hard work and dedication were instrumental in securing funding to support this work.