Thursday, February 20, 2014

Improving Entry Into the Teaching Profession

National statistics suggest that approximately 50% of all educators who enter the profession of teaching are no longer doing so after five years. Surprised? New teachers are have a pretty steep learning curve once they enter the classroom, and very quickly are put into a position of leadership. They quite literally find themselves serving as 'middle managers' within the confines of their own classroom, holding court over 20 some students. Add to that the pressure they are under to meet statewide standards, high expectations from building principals, a fast paced environment with multiple initiative to track and implement, and sometimes confrontational parents. Considering all of these factors it probably comes as no great shock that teachers oftentimes throw in the towel. After all, they can likely earn more money doing something else where the pressure isn't so great.

Student teaching in Iowa is currently about a fourteen week assignment. By the time student teachers have had the chance to observe teaching in action, learn the students names, and begin to experience the routines of the school, they are left with about two to three week of actual full time classroom teaching.That experience does not include such things as preparing for the start of the school year, parent teacher conferences, or understanding the ebbs and flows of a school year. While our current student teaching model is very good, and we produce outstanding teachers here in Iowa, data suggests that we still need to improve induction and retention of those new to the profession.

Enter House File 215. This is the landmark education reform legislation that was signed into law by Governor Branstad during the last legislative session.  In my discussions with all of you I have spent quite a bit of time talking about the components of HF 215 as they relate to teacher leadership and compensation (don't worry, we will be returning to that). Today I want to talk with you about an exciting partnership that we are embarking on with the University of Northern Iowa that is directly tied to the Governor's education reform initiative. That is the year long student teaching pilot project that is being administered by the Iowa Department of Education.

You may have read an article in the Courier a few weeks back that announced UNI had been the recipient of a $500,000 grant to complete what essentially amounts to a research project to find out if year long student teaching will better prepare preservice teachers. When developing their proposal, the University wanted to ensure that schools who accept student teachers were representative of students and schools in Iowa. So they asked Waterloo Schools to participate representing an urban setting, Linn Mar Schools as a suburban setting, and Hudson Schools to participate as a rural setting. We have always enjoyed a close working relationship with the University of Northern Iowa and were thrilled to be invited to participate in this exciting new pilot project. Our involvement in this pilot will better enable us to discover ways in which to prepare young people to become teachers while providing valuable data to the Governor, lawmakers, Department of Education, and Iowans in general.

We are still in the planning stages of this partnership, but I did want to take a few minutes to share some information about how we envision the year long teaching partnership to unfold. When we say 'year long student teaching' I would imagine that statement to generate a number of questions and concerns from parents! The first important item to note is that if your child is in a classroom with a student teacher participating in the year long pilot, you shouldn't worry. Your child will continue to be under the guidance of a fully certified classroom 'teacher of record'. The instructional model that we are developing will likely be based on a model of collaborative co-teaching. In other words, there will be more than one teacher in the classroom. Sometimes it may be the regular classroom teacher modeling a lesson that the student teacher observes, while another time it may be the student teacher presenting a lesson and the regular classroom teacher monitoring student progress and critiquing the student teacher's delivery of the instruction.

Year long student teaching means that while the student teacher will be immersed in a classroom and school district setting for the entire school year, it does not mean that they will be solely responsible for the instruction of a classroom of students. That still requires a fully licensed and certified teacher in the State of Iowa. We envision an immersion that includes a blend of field experience, laboratory experience, and classroom learning for the student teacher (such as a  methodology or human relations class). Plans are still under development, but we are closely working the the University of Northern Iowa on the logistics of this pilot. If you have any questions about our project, please feel free to give us a call.

No comments:

Post a Comment