The 31 graduate students in the Richmond Teacher Residency (RTR) are not your typical teacher candidates, and the Virginia Commonwealth University master of teaching degree program is not your typical graduate program for new teachers. Like other urban school districts, the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) faces unique challenges, not the least of which is providing its 25,000 students with outstanding teachers. For RTR, that means persons with “extensive content knowledge, along with the heart and vision to create a more equitable outcome for all students.”
Among the 31 aspiring teachers in this year’s RTR program, several are Peace Corps veterans, some have come to teaching from other professional careers following college, and others are fresh from their undergraduate degree programs, but often without undergraduate teaching experience. These “nontraditional” teacher candidates experience an intensive, year-long residency in Richmond City Schools’ classrooms, in a teacher-training model adapted from the field of medicine.
Creating a pipeline of extraordinary teachers
The RTR program is part of a national effort — the Urban Teacher Residency United Network — and a grantee of ED’s Teacher Quality Partnerships (TQP) grant program, which supports model teacher preparation programs through reforms by higher education institutions working in collaboration with high-need schools and districts. As it is with the RTR program, TQP places an emphasis on recruiting effective individuals, including minorities and persons from outside the teaching profession.
Teachers at Sammamish High School meet for collaborative PBL curriculum planning. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Miller/Edutopia)
Changing a high school curriculum — such as moving it from traditional pedagogy and assessment to problem-based learning (PBL) — is a huge challenge, and one that the faculty and students at Sammamish High School in Washington state’s Bellevue School District know well. They’re three years into a five-year transition to PBL with support from an Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant.
Since the inception of i3 project in 2010, teachers and administrators at Sammamish High School have collaborated and redesigned 30 courses to incorporate PBL. They believe it will better prepare their students for college and careers by making content across the curriculum more engaging and relevant to the world students will encounter after high school. “Turning the school inside out,” is how Suzanne Reeve, a Sammamish High teacher leader, describes it.
Sammamish High teachers describe the process of integrating problem-based learning into a traditional curriculum through thoughtful planning and implementation.
Collaboration has been key for teachers and students as they make the transition from Sammamish’s traditional curriculum to problem-based learning. Seventy-five teachers so far have worked in subject-area teams to create rigorous coursework that engages all students. It’s a “really challenging mental shift” for the teachers, according to Adrienne Curtis Dickinson, another of the PBL teacher leaders, but the course redesign process is giving teachers a voice and the ability to decide where best to integrate problems or projects into the curriculum.
Dickinson, who is social studies teacher at Sammamish, is reporting on her school’s journey in Edutopia™, part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, that is collaborating with the Bellevue schools on the implementation of its i3 project. Click here to read her latest report and watch a companion video in “Case Study: Reinventing a Public High School with Problem-Based Learning.”
The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Walt Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)
The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. Arts-rich schools, those with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive course offerings, benefit students in and outside of the art or dance studio, music room, or stage. “All children deserve arts-rich schools,” Secretary Duncan told an audience of arts education advocates in 2012, as he discussed the disappointing results of an ED survey that showed many students lacking adequate access to arts education.
There’s no better time to echo the secretary’s pronouncement than in March, widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities unfold throughout the month — some that showcase the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.
An estimated 340,000 beginning teachers, according to the National Center on Education Statistics, will enter America’s public school classrooms this year, a more than 50 percent increase in new teacher hires compared to 1999. Many are teaching in classrooms and schools that serve some of the most disadvantaged students — those with the greatest need for a strong, skilled teacher. These new teachers, who are just beginning to master their craft, are working long hours trying to meet those students’ needs, planning lessons, and managing complex curriculum requirements, often with very little assistance.
Mentor Shalini Patel (right) meets with new Chicago Public Schools teacher Emily Lopez to provide feedback following Patel’s observation in Lopez’s classroom. (Photo by Daniel Shea, courtesy of New Teacher Center)
Even the most promising new teachers are not fully prepared for the challenges of leading today’s classrooms. In too many cases, it’s a sink or swim experience, and students pay the price.
The right kind of support for new teachers is critical
Many district leaders across the country have recognized this issue and are responding by providing new teachers with some form of onboarding. Some districts simply offer a summer orientation, or a “buddy system,” that pairs new teachers with a teacher down the hall who can help them navigate school facilities in the first weeks. But districts implementing more robust models of induction — full systems of intensive support more focused on instructional delivery — say they are seeing more effective teaching and higher teacher-retention rates.
Every year, hundreds of American history teachers participating in Teaching American History (TAH) projects across the country gather in our nation’s capital to experience our history, politics, and culture firsthand. For many of these educators, this travel-study experience is their first journey to Washington, D.C., and, as such, marks an important milestone in their careers. For a group of 18 teachers from Ridgewood, New Jersey, however, a summer trip in 2013 also represented their first engaged discussion with experts in government and politics who are in elected and appointed offices of the federal government. The capstone event of the Ridgewood TAH project included a private audience with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer discusses a range of topics with the Ridgewood TAH project teachers. (Photo courtesy of John Domville of Ridgewood High School)
In preparation for this event, the participating teachers read and discussed The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction by Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times journalist Linda Greenhouse. In addition, under the guidance of the project’s three master educators, the TAH teachers developed a list of discussion topics to share with Justice Breyer. A number of the selected topics were relevant to Justice Breyer’s vast experience and expertise in legal theory and administrative and constitutional law; others were more pertinent to the teachers’ classroom work and efforts to improve civic engagement in their schools and communities, such as the roles of civic education in public life and the federal government in K-12 education, and the impact of Supreme Court decisions in American life, among others.
As a result of their experience at the Supreme Court, the teachers have developed lessons on equality (14th Amendment) and the interpretation of language in the U.S. Constitution (Federalist Paper #56). All of the lessons integrate one or more of the Common Core State Standards and use the Understanding by Design instructional framework.
Want to get a firsthand look at how elementary school teachers in Virginia are changing the way they view science and how they teach it because of an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant? You can by tuning in to the VISTA Voices: Inside the Elementary Program video series. Teachers from across the state attended summer institutes where they worked with students, gained hands-on practice using new teaching methods, and made plans for implementing new approaches, both individually and as school-based teams — all part of the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA).
The late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who himself made history as the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate, was passionate about the importance of the U.S. Constitution — he carried a copy in his suit-coat pocket — and about American history. He believed strongly that students need a deep understanding of the significant events and turning points in our Nation’s history. Under his legislative leadership, important opportunities were created for teachers of American history to strengthen their knowledge and improve their pedagogy, notably OII’s Teaching American History (TAH) grant program.
Authorized in 2001 to improve student achievement in American history by providing high-quality professional development to K-12 teachers, TAH grants have supported hundreds of school districts. The grant program supports professional development programs that put a premium on teachers engaging with primary sources via partnerships with a wide variety of cultural entities — from humanities programs of colleges and universities to museums and libraries to state and local historical societies.
(Sept. 18, 2013) U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today announced nearly $30 million for six grant awards to improve student achievement by increasing the effectiveness of teachers and principals.
The national non-profits funded under the Supporting Effective Educators Development (SEED) program, will enhance preparation of pre-service teachers, provide professional development to in-service teachers and leaders, and disseminate best practices, ultimately serving approximately 27,000 teachers and principals, reaching a significant number of students across all 50 states.
“Effective teachers and principals play a central role in improving student achievement and producing better outcomes for children,” Secretary Duncan said. “These grants provide resources to support teachers and school leaders and develop the next generation of world-class educators.”
Adapting teaching methods to learning standards is not always an easy task. Teachers and school administrators working with new or updated standards, like the Common Core State Standards, are faced with developing and recalibrating methods to ensure alignment. So imagine the challenge of redesigning a $1.1 million federal program right in the middle of a four-year grant cycle. That was the daunting task that faced the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP) as it worked alongside the School District of Philadelphia to integrate the arts into the curriculum in four Philadelphia schools.
PAEP was awarded a four-year grant through the Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Program (AEMDD) in 2010. Entitled Arts Link: Building Mathematics and Science Competencies through an Arts Integration Model, the grant aims to integrate the arts into the math and science curriculum in grades two through five. The end goal is to increase student achievement in these subjects by presenting the material through lessons and in ways not done previously.
Jerry Kyle and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (Courtesy of Cynthia Waller, U.S. Dept. of ED)
Over 200 teachers, teaching artists, principals, educators, and advocates met at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on August 7-8 for the International Organization on Arts and Disability (VSA) Conference. VSA
was founded in 1974, by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of President John F. Kennedy. Ambassador Smith showed her continued support Jerry Kyle and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (Courtesy of Cynthia Waller, U.S. Dept. of ED)[/caption]of VSA and the conference by attending a special luncheon on the first day. As a baby-boomer, I must admit that I was excited to not only have an opportunity to meet a member of the Kennedy family that has served our country for decades, but also to experience the passion that Ambassador Smith has for the mission of VSA. At age 85, she is still advocating for the importance of the arts in special education.
The theme of this year’s conference was Intersections: Arts and Special Education. The desire of the conference planners was to provide a place where two or more things would intersect: participants intersecting with their colleagues –old and new; art teachers intersecting with special education teachers; practitioners intersecting with researchers; visual educators intersecting with performing arts educators; and many other intersections of the field.