Recruiting and training good teachers

We know teacher education needs radical changes, writes Deborah Loewenberg Ball in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Let’s do it.

First, let’s agree that teaching is about more than just being smart and knowing a subject, that it requires a set of skills that prospective teachers must be taught and should demonstrate before they take over a classroom. . . .

Second, let’s identify the set of skills that are fundamental to safe and responsible teaching. These should not be pedagogical generalities, such as “knowing learners” or “classroom management,” but specific, crucial skills, like being able to explain fractions in several different ways, or to gain and maintain the attention of a class, or to accurately and fluently diagnose specific student confusions. These should be the compact list of teaching practices that put children at risk when teachers cannot do them well enough. The work on this is well under way; the University of Michigan will have a draft of a score of such high-leverage practices available within a few months.

Many teachers and ed writers blogged about last week’s conference on recruiting and training good teachers organized by Carnegie and the Education Writers Association, including Manderson’s Bubble, EDLeaderNews, The Jose Vilson, Outside the Cave and Ed Beat.

Effective teachers know their students, wrote TeacherKen, who has more here.

Teach to the dreams, wrote TeacherManDC in his conference post.

Ms. No Neck will never be America’s Next Top Model if she cannot answer questions from Tyra Banks using proper English.   Mr. Pretty Boy will never hurdle his way into the Olympics if he continues to dodge whatever emotional challenges confront him.  The characters and ideas we encounter in literature and essays will help Ms. Bag Lady discard personal weight she should never have had to bear.  Crisp, succinct writing (and thinking) will assist Mr. Detective as he seeks to unravel, decipher, and defuse the turbulent racial history he inherited.

The fact that they know I expect each of them to pass the AP English Language exam in May is part of it, but not most of it.  The most-of-it part is that they expect it too.  I did not give them that; it was there all along.  Like the teachers I met on Friday, and the ones with which I share a  building, I just help them find the courage to dream the dream out loud–and then claim it.

Ariel Sacks suggested an excellent story idea for education writers:  Does innovative teaching lead to better test scores? There’s no need to teach to the test, one presenter argued. Teach well and students will test well.

Let’s hear from innovative teachers who see big gains in their students’ test scores but do not seem to “teach to the test”.  What populations do they work with?  What type of schools do they work in?  What do they focus their curriculum on, and to what do they attribute the success of their students on the test?  Are there things these teachers think are important to teach, but leave out, because they aren’t tested skills or content?  Where do “soft” skills like collaboration, self-reflection, creativity, and empathy figure into their classrooms and curriculum?

Let’s also hear from teachers who refuse to teach to the test and who may not see huge gains on test scores, but who have been deemed excellent, innovative teachers by other measures, such as National Board Certification, feedback by their colleagues, school leaders, students and parents.  What is their rationale for the choices they make regarding curriculum and teaching style?  What growth do they see in their students, and why don’t they think it’s being measured accurately or at all or by the standardized test?

A testing expert once told me that research had found that time spent teaching to the test is wasted. When teachers spend more time teaching writing, their students’ scores improve in both English Language Arts and math. Why would it help in math? Writing improves logic and thinking skills, he said.

Update: EWA reports on the conference on EdBeat.

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