I realized how lucky I was on my first day as a classroom teacher.
Walking into I.S. 162, a large comprehensive middle school in the South Bronx, I immediately recognized the halls, knew the principal and could greet my fellow teachers by name. This was the school where I had completed my teacher training just a few months earlier, so I knew the neighborhood, had relationships with some of my students and had even seen my classroom. I may have been a freshly minted teacher, but I had a leg up on many of my peers.
Too often teacher preparation programs and school districts operate in silos, leaving teachers-in-training to hone their skills in schools or districts that are vastly different from the contexts in which they are ultimately hired to teach. This means that new teachers have to endure an often steep learning curve when they enter the profession, as they get comfortable in their new classroom and school, and with their new colleagues and students.
But that dynamic is slowly starting to change, and today more educators are having experiences like I did.
At Education First, we have found a growing number of districts have begun to proactively form deep, mutually beneficial partnerships with teacher preparation programs to produce teacher candidates who match their district needs.
And these partnerships are yielding short- and long-term results for both districts and programs.
We found these kinds of stellar partnerships in communities across the country. One Oregon-based partnership between Salem-Keizer Public Schools and two higher education institutions, Western Oregon University and Corban University, has been very fruitful. Collaboratively, they have developed talent pipelines to meet unique district needs, aligned goals and expectations for program graduates, and shared and analyzed data on teacher candidates in order to improve training and support.
As a result of the partnership, Salem-Keizer has reduced its five-year teacher attrition rate from nearly 30 percent to 5 percent. In the first year of the partnership alone, teachers developed via the partnerships outperformed traditional teachers produced at the universities on 8 out of 10 key teaching standards.
In Ensuring High Quality Teacher Talent: How Strong, Bold Partnerships Between School Districts and Teacher Preparation Programs Are Transforming the Teacher Pipeline, we map out 10 recommendations to help districts and teacher preparation programs initiate, implement and sustain these types of partnerships.
- Districts should understand their talent pipeline and discuss these needs with teacher preparation programs.
- Partners should set the initial vision and goals together, with a focus on relationship-building and trust.
- Partners should align on rubrics and key expectations for program graduates.
- Partners should commit to sharing and looking at data together to drive action.
- Partners should jointly select and train mentor teachers and strategically place candidates.
- Partners should ensure coursework matches clinical experiences and district language.
- Partners should communicate and meet frequently.
- Partners should spend more time in schools together.
- Partners should be open to change, and regularly step back to honestly discuss progress and challenges.
- Partners should ensure that district needs drive shifts in teacher preparation programs’ pipelines, structures and systems.
The brief also includes key funding considerations and recommendations for policymakers looking to encourage these types of partnerships. We believe that recent policy changes—the recent adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the upcoming U.S. Department of Education teacher preparation regulations—will encourage even more states, districts and programs to create partnerships like those we highlighted.
We’ve designed the report to be a practitioner’s guide for districts and teacher preparation programs looking to find better and deeper ways to partner with one another. We encourage you to share widely, and use this report to advance your own district or teacher preparation work or support the work you are doing in the field.