Research about teacher turnover and teacher experience produces the following unsurprising conclusions: Teacher turnover has negative consequences on student achievement, and more experienced teachers are more effective (at least during the first five years of teaching, after which effectiveness plateaus). These facts led to an anti-climatic conversation at the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” about whether teachers need to have experience. But that question is off-base; a more productive question to consider is “Why do teachers need experience?”
Photo courtesy of National Council on Teacher Quality
This month, the education reform nonprofit TNTP released Perspectives of Irreplaceable Teachers, a follow-up report to 2012’s groundbreaking The Irreplaceables, which highlighted the crisis school districts face in retaining highly-effective teachers. In Perspectives, TNTP researchers spoke with 117 of the most elite, skilled American educators about their thoughts on the teaching profession. I’d like to zero in on one of the main findings: These highly-effective teachers attribute little of their success to formal preparation or professional development programs.
New York City took a big, important step toward teacher preparation reform this week. The city’s department of education, in a first-ever move nationwide, released scorecards on the 12 teacher education programs that supply the most educators to the city. They judge the quality of the programs based on new teachers’ performance and success (or lack thereof) in the classroom.
The scorecards highlight colleges that are graduating teachers who are highly effective, specialized, and more likely to stick with the profession for more than three years. It shines a desperately needed light on teacher preparation, one that panelists pushed for during a YEP-DC event panel this month. The event, called “Teaching the Teachers,” invited experts, researchers, and practitioners to weigh in on the all-important goal of strengthening teacher training across the nation.
Computer programming has long been regarded as the niche domain of geeky men with poor social skills. But it’s past time for challenging this stereotype. By 2020, the U.S. workforce will need 1.4 million computer specialists, but universities are on track to graduate about 400,000 computer science majors by then. That’s a deficit of 1 million computer programmers. If developing technological expertise is a national priority, schools need to teach children – of both genders and all backgrounds – to code.
Computer programming evangelists are already providing opportunities for children to learn their trade. Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code provide specialist computer training to girls in after-school programs and workshops. Keen parents can download apps like RoboLogic and LightBot for children as young as four. But relying on nonprofits to do this is a short-term solution, benefitting only a small population. Since high-level computing skills are now required in most workplaces, it’s time to look at curriculum reform. (As a former teacher, this phrase makes me want to run for the hills, but apparently they even have iPads there.)
In spring 2010, David Pinder, then-principal of McKinley Tech High School, was contemplating a move to Chicago. He found work, and he went to tell then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee. But that’s when everything changed.
Some 150 freshmen and sophomores from nearby Shaw Middle School, which was in the process of growing into a high school, showed up on his doorstep. When their principal, Brian Betts, died earlier that spring, it killed the school’s expansion efforts, leaving those students to find a new high school.
“I thought, my God, I can’t turn (these) kids down,” said Pinder, who was speaking at YEP-DC’s inaugural policy-to-practice conference in March. But by doing so, Pinder welcomed a much larger challenge: Most of these kids were in poverty and below basic in math and reading. “I realized that if we were going to move (academics) substantially … we were going to have to actually figure out how to do education differently,” he said.
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MONICA GRAY is co-founder & president of DreamWakers, an edtech nonprofit. She writes on education innovation and poverty.