The Chicago Public Schools is creating its own university of sorts. Through partnerships with several local institutions, CPS is seeking to improve the quality of instruction districtwide by providing first-rate training for would-be teachers as well as those who already work in the system. The training laboratories are several relatively new professional development schools, each with a distinct mission:
The Academy for Urban School Leadership offers a full teacher certification program for career changers at The Chicago Academy, the first contract public school in the district.
Teacher prep program eases path to certification for career changers
This spring, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) will graduate its inaugural class of fully certified teachers—31 career changers who pledged to teach five years for CPS in exchange for a free master’s degree and a paid residency under award-winning mentors.
By paying student teachers and cutting by half the time it takes to earn an advanced degree in education, AUSL has removed the roadblocks of time and money that keep many from switching to a teaching career. The program is the latest brainchild of venture capitalist Martin “Mike” Koldyke, founder of the Golden Apple Foundation, which operates a fast-track alternative certification program for math and science teachers.
“The private sector has been doing this for 40 years—paying [rookies] to go through extended training programs,” asserts Koldyke, who cites Procter & Gamble as an example. As corporations look to tap homegrown talent for leadership roles, AUSL is grooming its residents “in the hopes they will stay for many years and become master teachers, lead teachers and some, principals,” he adds.
AUSL tapped Madeleine Maraldi, the well-regarded former principal of Washington Irving Elementary, to lead its teacher-training component, and partnered with National-Louis University, which adapted its two-year master of arts in teaching degree to fit the program’s one-year format.
“We didn’t want an alternative certification here, we wanted a full certification,” says Barbara Leys, who reports to Maraldi as associate director and previously served as a liaison between AUSL and National-Louis.
During the summer before school opens, residents take a sampling of their graduate education courses to prepare them for working in classrooms. Once school resumes in the fall, residents switch to evening courses twice a week. Their days are spent observing, tutoring and eventually teaching at The Chicago Academy, a pre-kindergarten through 7th grade school in Belmont-Cragin where education theories can be put to practical use.
The residents join full-time faculty in grade-level and cross-grade team meetings and work closely with their mentors to plan and execute lessons. During second semester, each resident will lead a classroom solo for two weeks, teaching a self-designed unit under the observation of a National-Louis professor.
AUSL is expensive. It pays resident teachers a $30,000 stipend and waives tuition for National-Louis. Those expenses, which totaled more than $1.1 million this year, were picked up by CPS and several area foundations.
The cost could be worth it if the residents remain in the system for five or more years. “They might be saving money,” observes Barnett Berry, director of the Southeast Center on Teaching Quality at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Residents are selected through a rigorous process involving written and oral presentations. AUSL seeks applicants, recent college grads or career changers, who have not been enrolled in traditional teacher-preparation programs.
“Regardless of age, we’re looking for maturity and a clear sense of mission coupled with sufficient training,” Koldyke says. “Teaching is a very tough job. You can’t just put raw amateurs in the classroom and expect them to succeed. It’s not fair.”
AUSL Director Kelly Wilson says it would take longer to prepare college students to take on the level of leadership she hopes residents can assume quickly. “We want to get them into the field so they can do the work,” says Kelly, a recent graduate of New Leaders for New Schools, an alternative certification program for principals. “We’re not just training teachers, we’re training teacher leaders.”
The Chicago Academy, which currently serves 450 students, employs 16 mentor teachers who are paired with 31 residents. Next year, AUSL expects to expand to 40 residents when the school adds an 8th grade. The program also plans to serve another 36 residents at a second site to open at the former Dodge Elementary, which was closed last spring. (See story)
Mentor teachers at The Chicago Academy had a year to get the school started before they took on the extra task of mentoring residents. That won’t be the case at Dodge. “On balance, [Dodge] would like to have the luxury of a shakedown year, [but] I think the feeling is the need is great to produce residents,” Koldyke says.
Patricia Bauldrick, slated to become principal at Dodge, says her priority in making that happen is hiring top-notch mentors. “That’s what I’m in the process of doing now—interviewing [candidates] and visiting various school sites.”
AUSL sparked a new management relationship between central office, outside partners and schools. When Koldyke first approached CPS about running a school, officials considered giving him a charter. “But it didn’t seem to make much sense” to use charters to train teachers to work in regular public schools, recalls Greg Richmond, CPS director of charter schools.
Instead, they took a fresh look at a provision of the 1995 reform law that permitted the Board of Education to privatize services. Until then, the provision had been used primarily to contract for custodial and other support services. It had never been applied to hiring outside groups to provide educational services.
As a contract school, The Chicago Academy is more similar to regular public schools than it is to charters, which are freed from many provisions of the state School Code. For instance, the school principal reports to an Area Instructional Officer and teachers have union representation. However, the school admits its students via lottery rather than neighborhood attendance boundaries, and it is governed by AUSL’s board of directors, not an LSC.
(Among the directors on AUSL’s board are Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management, Beverly Tunney, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, and Peggy Davis, chief of staff to schools CEO Arne Duncan.)
The Chicago Academy is housed in the former Wright College South building, which CPS leases from City Colleges of Chicago. The school receives per-pupil and discretionary funding like other public schools. AUSL has raised money to pay for auditorium renovations and laptop computers for every teacher and resident.
The Chicago Academy is dissimilar from many other CPS schools in another respect: demographics. It has fewer low-income children and a lower percentage of minorities enrolled (23 percent Latino, 10 percent African American) than the district average. Students perform much better on standardized tests—last year 82 percent scored at or above national norms in reading.
Elsewhere in the district, where residents are likely to be placed, schools are more likely to be 85 percent low income and 87 percent minority, with fewer than 44 percent of students scoring at or above average in reading.
The student population at Dodge next fall is expected to more closely resemble other district schools, offering residents there a teaching experience likely to simulate schools where they land first jobs.
Meanwhile, the Academy would like to enroll more African-Americans like Karen Veal, whose family moved from Oak Park into Chicago two years ago.
Veal homeschooled her daughter until she learned about the Academy’s academically challenging program. “I’m thrilled there are enough teachers here to give her the help she needs,” observes Veal, whose 7th-grade daughter gets extra tutoring in math.
While extra help in the classroom means a lot to parents, teacher retention experts credit AUSL for giving residents a gradual entry into teaching. “They’re not expecting their novices to be the individual teacher of record from the get-go,” observes Berry. “That’s not a good thing. The more that teachers have preparation, the less likely they are to leave.”
Residents’ academic and practical preparation may improve on traditional methods of preparing teachers. National-Louis professors working with residents appreciate the easy tie-in between theory and practice, a luxury they don’t always get with traditional education majors. “We talk about something in class one day and they go in the next day and try it out.” says Jane Moore, assistant professor who teaches mathematics methods.
Andre Cowling, a resident who teaches 5th-graders math, says connecting the two had further sparked his own desire to learn. One of his favorite events is Family Math Night, where children and parents played math games designed by teachers. “We got to interact with our mentor teacher, students and parents,” he says. “You can’t learn that from professors who’ve been out of the classroom since Moses [parted the]water.”
To keep the support network going, AUSL will place residents in groups of four or five in their assigned schools so they will remain connected to colleagues with whom they’ve built relationships. Maraldi says she is looking at schools that show academic improvement and where the principals expect ownership and involvement from their staffs.
Special care is needed to keep new teachers in the system, says Feinstein. “It all stems from their first job satisfaction,” he explains. “If we’re going to put rookie teachers in a school, you want to give them a team where there’s some indication these things are in place.”
A formal evaluation of AUSL’s teacher-training program, however, is several years away, after the first group of residents have been on their first jobs for a year or more.
Parents, though, say they are already impressed. Abigail Fernandez says her daughter has continued to receive rigorous instruction even though the master teacher, a Golden Apple winner, was out for six weeks on maternity leave. While she was away, two residents, Adlin Carrión and Aileen Lopez, ran the 1st-grade class. (A substitute teacher was also in the room.)
“I can honestly say, with this group of residents, I feel very comfortable with how they treat the children,” Fernandez says. “They challenge the children. I think they will succeed.”
For more information about the Academy for Urban School Leadership and The Chicago Academy, visit their web sites at www.ausl-chicago.org and www.chicagoacademy.org.
National Teachers Academy is an upscale site for traditional teacher training.
NTA provides golden opportunity for college of education students
In just about every regard, the National Teachers Academy (NTA) is a gold-plated site for student teaching.
It is housed in a gleaming, new $47 million facility that boasts computerized blackboards, two libraries and classrooms with two-way glass that allows student teachers to observe without disrupting class.
All of its teachers have or are working toward certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—the profession’s highest credential.
And its academic program models the best instructional practices, integrates student teachers into the entire school community—not just one classroom—and offers such extras as reflective study groups and videotapes of lessons.
At NTA, Chicago Public Schools officials have taken the standard student teacher training model and punched it up. One of the district’s goals is to improve the quality of classroom instruction, and it sees NTA as the gateway for making that happen.
“One of our goals at NTA is to grow new teachers and transplant them into Chicago public schools,” says Professional Development Officer Albert Bertani, who oversees the district’s teacher and principal training programs. Eventually, the school will also provide in-service training for experienced teachers, he says.
The hallmark of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 1999 re-election campaign, NTA opened its doors to students and student teachers last September, ending years of false starts. Located on the Near South Side, close to encroaching gentrification, it serves 620 students in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. For the most part, the children come from two nearby public housing developments—Dearborn Homes and Harold Ickes Homes.
The teacher-training program enrolled 10 student teachers during the first semester and 15 during second semester. Another 66 education students visited NTA to satisfy a classroom observation requirement that must be completed before student teaching. The school can accommodate 34 student teachers each semester.
At the beginning, the National Teachers Academy was meant to be a partnership between CPS, the Golden Apple Foundation and the University of Illinois at Chicago. However, the groups later withdrew, complaining that details for the new school from CPS were unclear.
Later, NTA endured several program changes and leadership shifts, making outside educators skeptical that the proposed school would ever get off the ground. Eventually, plans jelled as NTA planners worked to bring colleges of education on board.
(Currently, 13 Chicago-area universities, including Roosevelt, Chicago State and DePaul, are sending student teachers to the school, and the Academy is looking to expand to downstate institutions.)
“NTA’s faculty made a great effort to develop a solid working relationship with several universities,” says Connie Goddard, director of field placement and partnerships at Roosevelt University. “We sent our students because it looked like it was a conscientiously developed student teaching program.”
Before student teachers are selected, NTA administrators interview candidates, review their grades and assign a short writing exercise. The goal is to make “a philosophical match” by placing student teachers in the grades and subjects they want to teach. This year, five were turned away because such matches were not available.
NTA also looks for student teachers who will commit to teaching in CPS for four years after graduation. Although the teaching commitment is not binding, “we asked universities to send us students that understood our mission is preparing students for urban teaching,” says Mary Ann Manley, NTA’s pre-service coordinator who was formerly a curriculum coordinator in District 36 in Winnetka.
Nine of the 10 students who finished student teaching at NTA in December were hired by CPS. Three head their own classrooms, three are substitute teachers and three were hired to assist mentor teachers at NTA. (Two work with small reading groups; another is an aide with the Academy’s kindergarten team.)
“After my experience at NTA, I wanted to model my classroom like the ones there,” says former student teacher Denitra Griffin, who teaches lst grade at Carnegie Elementary in Woodlawn. One technique she picked up from NTA was breaking her class into activity groups, like a listening center where students independently listen to taped stories from headsets. This frees up Griffin to tend to students individually or in small groups.
Learning from masters
NTA’s student teachers learn from the masters—a faculty of experienced teachers who have earned National Board Certification, and others who are currently going through the process.
“The school has an excellent staff in terms of qualifications,” says Dale Fausch, who formerly handled student teacher assignments for DePaul University. “This is one of the reasons we chose NTA because we try to find excellent cooperating teachers for our students.”
One former student teacher was impressed by the time and energy mentor teachers put into their jobs. “It’s contagious,” says Chanera Smith, now an aide for three kindergarten classrooms at NTA. “There is so much support here. I know I can stop anyone in this building and get help.”
NTA student teachers have another advantage over their counterparts at many other schools. They have the opportunity to meet mentor teachers before they begin working in classrooms. Last semester, students got together with their teachers over the summer to set up classrooms and plan the curriculum.
“On my first day, I met my cooperating teacher and she told me, ‘This is our classroom and we’re going to organize it together,'” says Deloise Thomas, now a 7th-grade teacher at Lawrence in Jeffery Manor. “I was given freedom to try new things and explore.”
Time for reflection
Reflection is the fabric of NTA. Each week, student teachers meet with their cooperating teachers for study groups and other meetings across grade levels to review classroom practices.
“Every Friday after school, the two meet to talk about why they do what they do,” Manley explains. “The student teacher might ask, ‘Why did you group the kids the way you did during that lesson?’ And the cooperating teacher might ask, ‘Why do you think I did that? Do you think it worked?’
“Teachers need to reflect on why things were done,” she concludes.
To give student teachers a chance to review their instruction technique, NTA videotapes them at least once, mirroring a National Board teaching strategy. Student teachers review the tape with their cooperating teachers to pinpoint what worked and what didn’t
And twice a month, trainees and cooperating teachers meet after school in study groups to talk about education topics, such as literacy. Sometimes, the school social worker and counselor join the discussions so student teachers will better understand their roles and the services they provide.
“The faculty has a relationship that is awesome,”
Thomas says. “Those people communicate daily.”
The practice of reflecting has even trickled down to the children. NTA’s curriculum calls for cooperating teachers, student teachers and students to meet every morning and talk about good things their peers and instructors do. They also discuss concerns or express their wishes for the day.
“Students might acknowledge a fellow student for getting a good grade on a spelling test,” says 3rd-grade teacher LaTina Booker-Taylor. “Another may say they are concerned because a student is picking on them. A child might wish to pass a particular test. “At this school, this is all necessary and important. Kids have a voice here.”
Not yet a year old, NTA is gathering intelligence to evaluate its program. It has held in-house focus groups with staff and talked to university representatives and college of education deans.
The Academy also seeks input from student teachers. Before they leave, student teachers have exit interviews where they are asked to candidly talk about their experiences—what worked, what didn’t and what still needs to be clarified. Their suggestions are immediately put to use.
For example, first semester student teachers wanted individual mailboxes and training in how to maintain attendance records and other administrative tasks. NTA made the adjustments in time for second-semester student teachers.
“As far as we’re concerned, our program design is still in draft form and adjustments will be made when needed,” says Manley.
As part of the first-semester follow-up, NTA staff held a teacher alumni gathering to keep in touch up with the student teachers.
“My cooperating teacher continues to mentor me today,” says Griffin. “For instance, since I’ve been teaching, she’s given me tips on how to teach 1st graders to read.” For example, her former teacher told her how to create a “story well” that summarizes a story sequentially by numbering and labeling the events.
As NTA approaches the end of its first year, Thomas worries that perceptions about NTA’s location may inhibit college students from considering the first-rate student teaching opportunity there.
“A lot of students are not aware of what NTA offers and only think about it in terms of it being near the projects,” says Thomas, who graduated from Chicago State University. “I’ve told students at CSU that it behooves them to apply, that they only have one chance to student teach and why not student teach with the best. Being at NTA was like a breath of fresh air.”
For more information about the National Teachers Academy, call (773) 534-9970.
The Center for School Improvement at the University of Chicago offers research-based literacy instruction to veteran teachers and partners with eight CPS schools.
Charter school founders strive to overhaul literacy instruction
In 1998, the Center for School Improvement at the University of Chicago switched to Plan B in its efforts to upgrade literacy instruction in nearby elementary schools. Frustrated over eight years of limited success as an external partner, the Center launched a charter school to serve as a beacon.
The Center spent two years getting its elementary school in solid working order. In 2000, North Kenwood-Oakland Professional Development Charter School opened its doors to the other schools in its network. Now the charter is the centerpiece of a proposal aimed at influencing literacy instruction system-wide. “This is a goal that we’re aiming for,” says Center Director Tony Bryk.
So far, the charter has proven a solid academic success, with above-average reading test scores and a growing pool of applicants for its admissions lottery. But its impact on neighboring schools remains uneven. The problem, in the view of Center staff, is inconsistent principal leadership. The Center directly trains a handful of faculty members from each school.
They, in turn, are to train their colleagues. Some principals have followed through in full on that second level of training, and some haven’t, Center staff report.
The Center’s instructional approach is modeled on the one that had dramatic results in District 2 in New York City and is now used in San Diego and Boston. In District 2, the superintendent replaced unsupportive principals. That is not an option in Chicago, observes Bryk. “How do we make this work given that principals are locally appointed?” he wonders. “That’s another dilemma.”
The Center for School Improvement was founded in 1988 to bring together two isolated groups—educators and researchers—to improve literacy instruction, social services and leadership in low-income Chicago schools. Since then, 25 schools on the South and West sides have chosen to partner with the Center.
Schools working with the Center learn a set of research-based routines for teaching reading and writing. Rather than follow a prescribed program, teachers tailor instruction to address individual student needs. Each week, a series of activities leads students gradually toward more independent work. The approach is a radical departure for most schools.
“These aren’t little techniques that you give teachers,” says Bryk. “It really is an entire reorganization of instruction.”
Few network schools reorganized completely. Some principals made poor management decisions or had conflicting priorities, Center staff say. And most schools opted for a shortened “closed campus” school day that left little time for planning or for instruction.
“The Center only had persuasive power in these schools. They never had any clout,” explains Principal Marvin Hoffman, the charter school’s co-director.
For its own school, the Center had an ambitious scheme: It wanted the charter to function much like a teaching hospital. Like doctors, teachers would practice their craft, train other practitioners and participate in research that would benefit other schools.
Since few applicants would have such experience, the Center sought out strong classroom teachers who were open to learning the other roles, says Hoffman.
The Center also needed to find teachers who were willing to work a longer school day—8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.—with no additional pay. The extra time was needed for planning, staff development and simply more teaching of students.
As it turned out, the longer school day was no obstacle, as teachers who are interested in training others typically work extra hours anyway, Hoffman says. Many faculty members came from the Center’s partner schools.
Swinging into professional development mode was the real challenge, he says. For one, teachers whose classrooms would be demonstration classrooms had to get used to having other teachers watch them.
As a newly designated demonstration teacher, Debra Fields started the first day of school last year with a class full of kindergarteners and six new teachers hovering with notebooks. “It was a little intimidating,” she recalls.
The teachers were part of the Center’s New Teachers Network. They got to observe at North Kenwood-Oakland because the charter starts a week ahead of other Chicago schools.
During the school year, a stream of visitors dropped in to watch Fields’ reading lessons. Eventually she grew comfortable with the observation. Now when inquisitive visitors interrupt, she smiles and calls her next reading group.
The most intensive professional development North Kenwood-Oakland offers also places the heaviest demands on its demonstration teachers. Selected lead teachers from Center schools can apply to spend two weeks in residence at the charter. For host teachers that means daily discussions with residents and traveling to the teachers’ classrooms before and after the residency.
Amanda Djikas, who teaches kindergarten at the charter, says she found managing residencies a struggle at first, but that it grew easier with practice. And the rewards outpace the demands, she says. “We share ideas. I find it quite exciting.”
The Center generally works with schools in three-year cycles. During the first year, it holds workshops for teachers at a school. Principals from participating schools also attend monthly workshops to learn what to look for in a classroom and how to use that information to set priorities for professional development.
Since the goal is to build the school’s own capacity to support its teachers, the Center spends most of its time intensively training literacy coaches, usually two per school, and a lead teacher at each grade level. Each month, lead teachers and their coaches visit during North Kenwood-Oakland’s two-hour literacy block.
On a morning in April, for instance, some 20 coaches and teachers from six schools circulate through three primary classrooms, jotting down observations in their notebooks.
In a 1st-grade classroom, the demonstration teacher, seated at a table with six students, wraps up her reading lesson and rings a small bell. On cue, another reading group comes forward while the rest quietly rotate among activity centers that include listening with headphones to a recorded story or composing a letter. Visitors are amazed at the smooth transition and how well students work without teacher supervision. “I thought I walked into a fantasy world,” one visiting teacher remarks.
Later, the teachers gather in the school’s spacious professional development room with the three Center teachers they observed. The visitors seek advice on structuring reading groups and managing independent work.
“What do you do with students having trouble sitting still during independent reading?” one 2nd-grade teacher wants to know. The first step, explains 3rd-grade teacher Kimberly Folkening, is to build a classroom library with books that aren’t too difficult for beginners.
To complement the workshops and charter visits, lead teachers get coaching in their own classrooms from Center staff.
In the second year of their training, lead teachers can apply for a two-week residency to focus on one or two areas of their training. North Kenwood-Oakland accepted nine residents this year.
In the third year, the Center steps back and lets the school run most of its professional development. This year, six network schools are in their first year, one is in its second, and one has a long-term partnership.
The success of the charter school itself is easiest to measure. Its standardized test scores are well above the district average in reading and approaching the average in math.
The school’s popularity is another indicator. A growing number of middle-class parents are applying for the school’s admission’s lottery, according to Hoffman. To maintain its credibility as a demonstration site for inner-city schools, administrators must scramble to recruit low-income students. This year, 75 percent came from low-income families, a percentage somewhat below the district average of 85 percent.
North Kenwood-Oakland’s impact on other schools during the past three years is harder to quantify. No school has passed through the Center’s full three-year training cycle since the charter opened to outsiders.
In a study of the students of four teachers at Holmes Elementary who completed two-week residences, the Center found greater test-score gains after the residency than before. Three teachers saw major gains—up to a half-year’s difference.
But overall, Holmes Iowa reading scores remained flat. Sara Spurlark, the Center’s interim director, thinks the school neglected to get teachers into the classrooms of those who had the intensive training.
The principal disputes that. But both agree that a changing student population and new teachers depressed scores.
Cameron Elementary in Humboldt Park, a long-time Center partner, made a stronger effort to pool its expertise, according to Spurlark. That school saw its reading test scores rise from 20 percent at or above national average in 1997 to 37 percent in 2002.
Of the six schools currently in their first year of Center training, only Ryder Elementary in Auburn-Gresham is going full-force with the coaching and classroom visits, she says.
Bryk believes that one key to District 2’s success in transforming instruction is that it trained everyone—student teachers, veteran teachers, peer coaches and principals—in the same approach to literacy. As District 2’s teachers became principals, the literacy program spread to other New York City public schools.
Bryk would like to grow a similar but voluntary “developmental district” in Chicago, up to 25 schools, all trained in the Center’s literacy framework. “What District 2 was to the New York City Public Schools, we would like the developmental district to be to Chicago,” he says.
Under this scenario, which Bryk has discussed informally with Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins, the Center might serve as an advisor to local school councils in the principal hiring process.
Watkins worked part-time for the Center while principal at McCosh, and now the Center is directing part of the training of the district’s new area instructional officers and reading coaches.
On another front, beginning next fall the Center will train about a dozen University of Chicago seniors as teachers, doubling the number the following year. After graduation, these aspiring teachers will complete a six-month internship at North Kenwood-Oakland Charter and a second at another Center school.
To support its expanding program, Bryk envisions perhaps two more charter schools like North Kenwood-Oakland, possibly in Woodlawn and Englewood.
For more information on the Center for School Improvement and its literacy framework, visit the Center’s web site at www.csi.uchicago.edu
“We’re looking to create high-quality teachers with strong leadership,” says Albert Bertani, CPS chief professional development officer. This effort coincides with the district’s education plan that makes boosting teacher quality a priority.
CPS joins a growing national trend where school districts and universities collaborate on teacher preparation. According to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the organization that accredits schools of education, there are more than 170 professional development schools among the 556 teacher-training institutions that the council accredits. In 2001, NCATE released voluntary standards for professional development schools.
The concept for professional development schools surfaced in the late 1980s when a consortium of educators expressed concerns about the status of public education and the quality of teacher training in America. Their 1986 report recommended reforms that would more closely connect schools of education to other academic disciplines and local school districts.
“There’s been a disconnect between teacher education and what happens in the classroom—a split between theory and practice,” remarks Lee Teitel, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“Professional development schools get around that because there’s a joint responsibility for teacher preparation…and the tension between theory and practice gets played out in a constructive way.”
The mission of professional development schools is to improve teaching and learning in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms, explains Teitel, who has studied the impact of professional development schools in urban districts for more than a decade.
Do these schools make a difference in teacher preparation and student achievement? Research says yes, according to Teitel.
The partnership between university teacher-training programs and public schools allows student teachers to work with a cooperating teacher as well as learn about whole-school culture. The experience puts teaching into a broader context and provides new teachers with a deeper understanding of what contributes to learning. This knowledge benefits their students.
Professional development schools also address teacher retention, an issue recently deemed a crisis by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Its recent study contends that the country’s teacher shortage is really a problem of retention. A third of new teachers leave the classroom after three years, and roughly half are gone after five, according to the report. The turnover rate in urban schools is even higher.
Retention is even more critical under the federal No Child Left Behind act, which requires every school to have only “highly qualified” teachers by 2005. “The nation will be hard pressed to meet this goal if we do not stop the exodus of teachers from many of our schools,” the report maintains.
“We must make a significant dent in the teacher attrition rate,” says Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch, who adds that Chicago’s teacher attrition parallels the national rate. This issue can be corrected with greater support for new teachers through mentoring and induction programs, more competitive salaries and better working conditions, she says.
Some state policy makers are convinced that these schools will make a difference. In 1995, Maryland became the first state to require education students to complete the student teaching component in professional development schools.