Prepared To Teach and New America Explore Transforming Teacher Preparation

On July 27, Prepared To Teach at Bank Street College and nonpartisan think tank New America co-hosted a public webinar titled “Transforming Teacher Preparation to Best Serve Students.” The online event convened leading experts in the field of education to explore why and how we can make equitable, high-quality teacher preparation sustainable and the next steps leaders and policymakers can take to support meaningful systems change.

The webinar began with welcome remarks from Elena Silva, Director, Pre-K­–12, Education Policy Program, New America, who spoke about the organization’s dedicated focus on improving and diversifying the education workforce and modernizing the system through the recruitment, preparation, and ongoing development of teachers and leaders to better serve today’s students. Karen DeMoss, Executive Director, Prepared To Teach, then set the stage for the event with a presentation on the research case for transforming the field of teacher preparation.

“When teachers quit, students and schools lose,” said DeMoss as she explored key issues of teacher retention, teacher effectiveness, and diversity in the education workforce. “That revolving door of novice teachers is even more problematic when you think about the students. It robs students of the chance for strong learning opportunities—and those who are underserved in particular face this reality. Turnover rates are about 70 percent higher in schools with high proportions of students of color.”

DeMoss shared how extended preparation approaches, such as residencies, including Grow Your Own programs that recruit and prepare teachers from their local communities, address key issues that affect the workforce and, as evidence shows, have a positive impact on student outcomes.

Next, several practitioners from across the country began a panel discussion on “Insights from Innovative, Impactful Teacher Preparation Programs.” The panel included Tania Hogan, Director of Undergraduate Student Success, School of Education and Human Development, University of Colorado Denver; Charelle James, Executive Director, Urban Teachers, Baltimore; Bernard Koontz, Executive Director of Teaching, Learning and Leadership, Highline Public Schools; and Amber Thompson, Clinical Associate Professor & Associate Chair, Teacher Education Program, University of Houston. Amaya Garcia, Deputy Director, Pre-K­–12, Education Policy Program, New America, moderated the conversation.

Panelists touched on examples of effective preparation models that included the integration of teacher residencies, a model in which aspiring teachers work closely with mentor teachers in the classroom. “We’ve partnered with our districts to have a paid para internship.…so they are getting paid to work out at the schools Monday through Friday, 8 to 12 in the morning, and then they come and take courses in the afternoon,” said Hogan about the design of CU Denver’s undergraduate teacher residency and Grow Your Own program NxtGEN, which was created for students of color, first generation students, and linguistically diverse students to help support the needs of local districts. “We have been able to fund some of it in some districts through work study and then, in other districts, they’re hired as employees of that district and serve that dual role. We have found that is a great way to support that financial piece while also getting early field experiences, learning the lingo of the district, the curriculum, how things operate, and then they get early coaching and feedback because our program is situated within the larger residency schools. There’s a site professor and a site coordinator that are also at each school.”

The second panel, titled “Policies to Support Scaling of Innovative, Impactful Teacher Preparation Approaches,” explored policy measures that can promote transformative preparation and strengthen the system. Moderated by Melissa Tooley, Project Director, Educator Quality, Education Policy Program, New America, the panel featured Eric Duncan, P-12 Data and Policy Senior Analyst, Education Trust; Alexandra Manuel, Executive Director, Professional Educator Standards Board, Washington State; Ryan Saunders, Policy Advisor, Learning Policy Institute; and Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Senior Director, Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers.

After reflecting on the research and insights shared earlier in the event, the policy-focused panel engaged in an important conversation around the actions that can sustainably support and scale high-quality, extended preparation models.

“It’s important that you fund those partnerships—providing implementation grants and planning grants. Pennsylvania has done that with their Title II dollars, California’s done that with their historic investment in teacher residencies,” said Saunders on the financial elements of program partnerships. “Also, states can help connect those grantees. Just as we want cohort models for our candidates, we want cohort models for our residency designers. There are states like Georgia, Tennessee, and California that have developed cohort visions for where this expertise is shared in practice and distributed across the state.”

To conclude the event, Roberto J. Rodríguez, Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, United States Department of Education, presented “Opportunities to Transform Teacher Preparation,” in which he shared further thinking around how we can move forward to support and realize meaningful systems change.

“We need to get much more serious about reshaping how we prepare our teachers and support them across their career, especially in those early years, in those first five years, and secondly, we must bring greater urgency to the opportunities that we need to grow our teachers’ leadership knowledge and skills across their time in the profession,” said Rodríguez.

A recording of the entire webinar can be viewed here.