Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The focus of effective teacher preparation programs: Teacher competencies that sustain success

      This blog series planned to emphasize the explicit purpose of the NYSTCE tests.  Collectively, these exams help identify for certification those candidates who have demonstrated the appropriate level of knowledge and skills considered important for performing the responsibilities of an educator in New York State public schools.  As noted in previous blogposts, the NYSTCE tests, include the ALST, EAS, CST, and edTPA.  These trailing indicators of success require a demonstration of the appropriate level of knowledge and skills expected a beginning teacher.  As with any assessment system, by extension the NYSTCE tests evaluate teacher preparation programs, requiring institutions and programs to monitor and adjust their leading indicators of success. 
            The failure of teacher preparation programs to address reform of their leading indicators for effective teacher preparation resulted in the need for this blog series to address the unintended consequences rather than the tests alone.  Reform efforts cannot be to content alone.  Innovative teacher preparation programs exhibit balanced support between development of the teacher candidate’s pedagogy, promotion of the teacher candidate’s active inquiry, and engagement of faculty across the disciplines.  This endeavor raises expectations for critical thinking, professionalism, and self-efficacy.  Monitoring and adjusting these leading indicators of success requires a clear mission, action-based vision, and systemic reform. 
            Aiming to ease entry into teaching, nearly every state and the District of Columbia either delays or bypasses some teacher preparation requirements demanded by traditional university-based preparation programs (NAE, 2008).  Since 2002, “Urban Teacher Residency”(UTR) programs, have become an increasingly popular a third option for teacher preparation after initially being introduced in Boston, Chicago, and Denver.  UTR has attracted public and philanthropic investment.  These practice-based preparation program require a teacher candidate to work alongside a mentor teacher for a year before becoming a teacher of record.  UTR programs exhibit more racial and ethnic diversity as well as far greater retention rates.  However, a study of the Boston UTR found only modest student achievement attributable to the program (Papay, West, et al., 2011). 
            The greatest impact of the “third-rail” innovative UTR programs may result from the reform conversations at university-based teacher preparation programs.  Practice-based training models, inspired a panel commissioned by the National Center for the Accreditation of Teacher Education to endorse “programs that are fully grounded in clinical practice and interwoven with academic content and professional courses” (NCATE, 2010, p. ii).  The report recommended “sweeping changes in how we deliver, monitor, evaluate, oversee, and staff clinically based preparation to nurture a whole new form of teacher education” (p. iii).
            This blogpost series continues to address the need to develop the aforementioned skills desired of effective teachers through a focus upon improving the leading indicators of success.  However, many teacher preparation programs may erroneously focus upon one trailing indicator: the edTPA.  "The edTPA is designed to align with the authentic teaching practice of the teacher candidate" (SCALE, 2014).  There are 607 Educator Preparation Programs in 33 states and the District of Columbia currently participating in the edTPA.  New York State, intends for the edTPA to be “a student-centered multiple measure assessment of teaching.  It is designed to be educative and predicting of effective teaching and student learning” (NYSTCE, 2014).  Unfortunately, the New York State rollout of the edTPA resulted in reports that NYSED once again advocated for “a rushed, rather than a fair and effective, rollout” (Pinto, 2014). 
            NYSED requires that a teacher preparation program be “responsible for providing instruction sufficient to ensure all candidates are adequately prepared for certification” (2014, p.7).  Despite the $10 million Race to the Top investment to support SUNY, CUNY and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (cIcu) in this endeavor, the focus remains on NYSTCE test results for rating teacher preparation programs.  Proposed federal regulations will require states to classify their teacher-preparation programs into four categories: from low-performing to high-performing.  The rating will be weighed in part on outcomes indicators that include: surveys of graduates and school districts, teacher placement and retention rates, and results of the teacher candidate’s competency exams.
            Teacher education preparation practices are now very different compared to a generation ago.  Undoubtedly, accountability is now the most emphasized element in efforts to promote effective and sustained educational reform efforts.  Accountability requirements within legislation such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002) and IDEA (2004) created the impetus for sustained change efforts within education.  However, poor communication and rushed timelines during the implementation of more stringent accountability requirements resulted in well-documented unintended consequences.  Significant to this reality was that the fear of failure became the single most powerful force of change. 
            Without the time for careful development of the leading indicators for success assessed through NYSTCE tests, teacher preparation programs will be subject to unintended consequences.  As an authentic assessment of actual practice exhibited by the teacher candidate, the edTPA should encourage teacher preparation programs to promote carefully planned lessons that exhibit differentiated instruction to diverse learners that allow promotes progress monitoring of learning. 
            To begin the process of developing teacher competencies that sustain professional success and learning for all, teacher preparation programs seeking to be highly performing need to utilize an aligned lesson plan.  An aligned lesson plan will elicit every teacher candidate’s understanding of: the learning context; the (Common Core) standards for learning; the connection to learning; the group’s measurable learning objective; the central focus for the group; the differentiation of instruction; any focus learner’s primary learning target; the needs for instructional supports; how to incorporate academic language; the range of diverse instructional strategies; and reliable assessment of learning that is linked to the measurable learning objective.  Therefore, the measurable learning objective is a foundation for any lesson.  An effective teacher preparation programs will not ask, “How do we help our students pass the edTPA?”  By contrast, using a formative and summative perspective, an effective teacher preparation program is confident its students mastered how to develop measurable learning objectives and the other areas of the aligned lesson plan.  
            An effective teacher preparation program emphasizes the reality that an action research approach is essential for sustaining success.  Through curriculum mapping and a respect for learning progressions (Idol & West, 1993), an effective teacher preparation program ensures the establishment of solid learning outcomes for its preparation course work.  Once these three reforms are in place, sweeping changes in how to deliver, monitor, evaluate, oversee, and staff a clinically-based preparation program can begin. 
            An effective teacher preparation program not only knows what is needed to creates a solid foundation for future pedagogical success but ensures this foundation is mastered by its teacher candidates.  An effective program is reflective, data-driven, and nurtures innovation.  Therefore, it reinforces the concept of defined autonomy (Marzano and Waters, 2009) while sustaining teacher candidate success through the development of competencies that are essential for an effective educator rather than focusing upon passing a set of teacher tests

To cite:
Anderson, C.J. (March 31, 2015) The focus of effective teacher preparation programs: Teacher competencies that
               sustain success.[Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/

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