Thursday June 14, 2012
Last Friday, UTRU submitted comments in response to the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District competition draft rules and executive summary. As you may know, the competition is designed to support bold, locally directed improvements in teaching and learning that will directly improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness.
Below is a copy of UTRU’s suggested revisions. If you read these and find that you are in agreement, please go to the Department website and vote up UTRU’s comments to raise awareness of our national and local movement! We also suggest reviewing comments submitted by New Schools Venture Fund and the Public Education Network—both highlight residencies in their feedback. Education Week provides a nice synopsis of additional comments here.
The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education
US Department of Education
Washington, DC 20201
Re: Comments on Race to the Top-District competition draft executive summary
Dear Secretary Duncan,
Urban Teacher Residency United (UTRU) is a national non-profit organization that supports the development of high-quality, effective urban teacher residency programs that prepare teachers to work in high-need schools – with a focus on performance-based preparation that leads to improved student achievement.
UTRU strongly supports the Race to the Top-District competition that aims to support the development of innovative, personalized teaching and learning models to promote college and career ready outcomes for all students, and emphasizes the District’s contribution to sustained, embedded school improvement efforts.
Through technical assistance and a national network of teacher residency programs, UTRU works to launch, scale, sustain, and improve residencies, concentrating on the key elements of high quality, effectiveness-based clinical teacher preparation, including: clinical preparation; evaluation; strategic recruitment; new teacher support through mentoring and induction; and partnership building with districts to target placement in high-need subject areas and grades.
Teacher residency programs are district-based teacher preparation programs that concentrate on preparing teachers to be effective from the first day in the classroom, and give them the knowledge and skills to be increasingly effective at moving student achievement and contributing to the school community over time. While residency programs are typically housed in a district, they are often developed and implemented in partnership with non-profit organizations and an institution of higher education. UTRU believes that no matter where teachers start, or how they enter the classroom, every teacher must be ready to be effective on their first day and be committed to education and the life-long learning cycle for children.
The Department’s draft executive summary provides an excellent foundation for the RTT-D competition that aligns well with the Race to the Top State competition, and the Department’s ESEA flexibility application requirements. UTRU strongly supports all efforts at strengthening teacher effectiveness outlined in the draft. Further, we commend the Department on prioritizing high need schools; flexibility and autonomy at the school level; sharing evaluation data and making data-driven decisions; and the ensuring transition plans concentrate on increasing the number of students who receive instruction from effective and highly effective teachers and principals, including hard-to-staff schools and subjects, especially STEM and special education.
UTRU believes the Race to the Top-District competition could be strengthened in the following ways:
1. Include teacher preparation programs at all levels of implementation and accountability for the Race to the Top-District competition requirements and competitive preference areas.
a. In establishing the policies and systems to enable teachers and teacher teams to continuously focus on improving individual student achievement, the theory of change should prioritize the engagement of preparation programs as key contributors to the learning cycle, professional development, and evaluation of effective teachers.
b. Sustainable partnerships with public and private organizations should include teacher preparation programs specifically. With a concentration on clinical-based preparation, and as districts become more strategic in utilizing multiple pathways for new teachers, teacher preparation programming has expanded its reach outside of traditional university-based models and this should be reflected in the supporting partnerships.
2. More explicitly describe and require professional development plans, for new and experienced teachers, to ensure they are prepared to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every child, with a particular focus on those schools serving students in low-income communities.
a. Excellent classroom teachers are a core school-based resource for supporting the entire educator community and they must be equipped with the appropriate skills and training to meet the ambitious goal of improving learning outcomes for all students. Mentors and other clinical instruction faculty lay the foundation for new teachers and connect teacher preparation to the district’s existing student and teacher expectations.
b. Teacher preparation programs should align induction support for their candidates to the school and district professional development needs. Further, preparation programs should identify a graduating candidate’s strengths and needs as they enter the district to better align professional development planning.
3. Prioritize district human capital initiatives that seek to diversify teacher pathways and to integrate teacher preparation with district academic initiatives that enable teachers to differentiate instruction and personalize learning, such as teacher residency programs and other clinically-rich models. These models emphasize the theory-to-practice connection, and recruit and place teachers to meet district demand. Performance-based teacher preparation should:
a. Tailor programming to the district instructional curriculum and culture, and prepare educators in the content and pedagogy that is aligned to effective teacher standards.
b. Raise recruitment and selection standards, and concentrate on district priorities areas, such as STEM, middle school, diversity recruitment, special education, English language learners, or other areas determined by the district.
c. Address equitable distribution by training effective teachers to serve high-need schools, subjects, and grades, and commit to teaching in low-income communities.
d. Address academic achievement gaps by preparing excellent teachers with the specific skill sets needed to succeed in struggling schools and designed to excel from the first day as teacher of record.
4. Ensure that nonprofit organizations are included as key stakeholders, and that they are eligible partners for districts or consortiums of districts in designing and implementing the strategies determined for student-focused approach to teaching and learning.
a. Nonprofit organizations provide much-needed leadership, support and capacity, and as partners should provide letters of support for the application.
b. Nonprofit organizations should be included as part of the stakeholder community and as key members of any public-private partnerships to support LEAs.
5. Require LEAs to integrate teacher preparation program outcomes as part of a robust data system.
a. Structures must exist to track student achievement data and other indicators of teacher and student success across district departments and connect individual students with teachers, especially connecting human resources with curriculum, instruction, assessment, and evaluation, with the ability to report data on teacher effectiveness back to preparation programs.
b. Innovative programming that prepares and enables educators to determine their impact based on feedback from assessment and evaluation systems, and teacher preparation specifically, depends on student level P-12 data matched with higher education data.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide support and suggestions on the draft executive summary of the Race to the Top-District competition. We believe our suggestions will strengthen the program, and we applaud the Department’s effort to identify reforms that will increase the effectiveness of educators and expand students’ access to the most effective educators.
Urban Teacher Residency United
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