Teacher prep tries better link to neighborhood schools

Teacher prep tries better link to neighborhood schools

(Wash.) Student teachers are entering the profession more prepared to manage a classroom after participating in an ongoing pilot program targeting low-performing schools, according to a new report from Washington’s education department

Collaborative Schools for Innovation and Success pairs education colleges with elementary schools – often in high-poverty areas. Among its strategies: Attempting to involve future teachers in the communities they’ll likely begin teaching in upon graduation, many of which have higher numbers of English learners.

“Regional collaboration allows the colleges to tailor the approach of their programs to better serve the students in the communities of the local school districts in which their candidates will do their student teaching and likely find their first teaching assignment,” according to the report.

Research shows that schools with the highest teacher turnover rates are often in low income neighborhoods but other factors contribute to new educators leaving the profession.

Meager wages, a lack of administrative support and low quality induction programs have all been cited as contributing factors to why nearly half of all new teachers move or leave the profession within the first year, according to a separate report released last year by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Districts across the country have taken steps to rectify the situation. In some states, administrators have increased pay for new teachers. There are also programs where a student teacher’s college tuition is picked up by the state or local jurisdiction in exchange for an agreement to teach in the district upon graduation. Some places have also found success with mentoring programs in which experienced teachers help guide new hires.

The Collaborative Schools program was established in 2012, linking three elementary schools with education colleges.

Variations of the program implemented in all three elementary schools had some aspect focusing on regularly setting short-term goals and developing an understanding of each student’s culture.

While each site saw improvement in different areas based on the program it adopted, researchers found that all three pairings of schools benefitted. As a result, schools had increased family engagement; were more culturally responsive when working with families where English was a second language; and were better able to help students catch up academically.

One partnership blended academic services with health and wellness programs developed with the help of community organizations.

As the program has matured, researchers said, more students are taking advantage of mental health services. In 2013-14, seven students received mental healthcare services and last year that number increased to 22.  

In addition, analysts found a possible correlation between teacher preparedness and a deeper connection to the community and students’ cultures. Through hosting family literacy nights and putting more effort toward engaging harder to reach families, student teachers were exposed to different ways of understanding the students they worked with.

A second paring was required to set a series of short-term goals to improve different areas such as school climate, and take steps to achieve them over a 45 day period, repeating the process throughout the year.

In the elementary school, there was a significant drop in monthly referrals to the office for student behavior. Two years ago, 200 students were sent to the principal in the month of September; this year, only 80 students were referred for bad behavior during that same month.

The number of candidates graduating from one of the two colleges involved in this second pairing who earned English for Speakers of Other Languages endorsements increased from two to 14 in four years.

The final pairing increased the percentage of English learners gaining proficiency and transitioning into mainstream courses, with the number jumping from just 1 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2015. The schools adopted a plan to continuously cycle through looking at ways to improve, acting accordingly, assessing results and considering different methods for improvement.

According to the report, allowing more in-depth involvement in family outreach efforts and time collaborating with experienced teachers has benefited prospective educators involved in the pilot program.

“The initial feedback from teaching candidates is that additional field experience is contributing to being more successful in instruction and behavior management,” authors wrote.

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