How to build a better education school

Calling attention to the crisis that confronts teacher preparation in the United States, the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s magazine, Edutopia, has identified 10 schools of education that are preparing future teachers to meet the demands of today’s classrooms—including the successful integration of technology into instruction—head on.

At the core of today’s innovative and successful programs is extensive field experience, Edutopia’s Grace Rubenstein writes in “Building a Better Teacher: Confronting the Crisis in Teacher Training,” which recognizes what the publication considers the 10 “Leading Schools” of education today.

Field experience provides student teachers with ample opportunities to link theory with practice, bringing to life what foundation Executive Director Milton Chen calls the “excellent research” education schools conduct on “how students learn and how teachers can be better prepared to teach.”

Despite the wealth of research supporting the use of technology in instruction, preparing future teachers how to integrate technology effectively into the classroom is still a “neglected education-school adaptation,” Rubenstein says, reflecting a common perception of education-school curricula.

And, because universities and their leaders have underinvested in schools of education, “education schools often have the least technology, funds for faculty development, and the oldest buildings and classrooms in need of modernization,” Chen says.

Thus, many of the education schools recognized by the foundation for their innovative efforts have sought and received outside funding, such as New York’s Bank Street College of Education, renowned for its pioneering efforts in educational technology.

Bank Street simply “asks its teachers to use technology,” says faculty member Marvin Cohen, without requiring anything “dramatic.” Over time, Cohen says, teachers learn when the use of technology is “appropriate” and find it “really fits with students’ needs.”

The school’s Center for Urban Teacher Education and Technology, staffed by four “tech fellows”—graduate students with an interest in technology, who are recruited to become coaches for peers and faculty—makes resources and training available.

Through a different, more structured model, education students at the University of Texas at Austin, another “Leading School,” must reach specific benchmarks for technology integration by the time they graduate—including the ability to operate basic computer systems and troubleshoot, use technology to access and organize data, apply critical thinking to the selection and use of technology in the classroom, and apply technology to enhance student-centered learning.

As Edutopia points out in its report, successful models have the capacity to “change the way we teach.” Hopefully, Chen says, showcasing such vanguard schools will “lead to discussion regarding how to upgrade education schools and uplift the profession.”

According to Edutopia, the 10 “Leading Schools” of education are:

Alverno College (Milwaukee) features a unique curriculum based on multiple abilities, such as effective communication and having a global perspective. More than one-third of the program’s students are minorities, and part of the school’s mission is to make higher education accessible to women who need extra support.

Academy for Urban School Leadership (Chicago) prepares new teachers expressly for the rigors and rewards found in Chicago’s toughest schools. The program features a year-long residency in dedicated training academies and two years of postgraduate field coaching.

Bank Street College of Education (New York City) owns and runs the K-8 School for Children and is renowned for its pioneering efforts in the Head Start program, children’s literature, and educational technology, as well as its hands-on, two-year graduate program, focused on K-8 instruction.

Boston Teacher Residency follows a locally tailored curriculum and requires a year-long residency with a mentor teacher. Residents receive a stipend and loan forgiveness and are expected to commit to the Boston school district for at least three years.

Curry School of Education (Charlottesville, Va.) features a five-year, dual-degree program combining extensive subject-area knowledge, fieldwork, and pedagogy. Students have one adviser in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts and Sciences and another in the School of Education. The program also features strong technology integration.

Emporia State University (Emporia, Kan.) has pioneered the use of a universal student-assessment system and requires that students spend a full year in professional development. A capstone of the program is the Teacher Work Sample, a portfolio of assessments illustrating how well a student teacher delivers an entire unit of instruction.

Michigan State University (East Lansing, Mich.) uses its five-year bachelor’s program to ensure that students who want to teach are not short-changed on a liberal education or hands-on teaching practice. During their fifth year, candidates serve as interns in a school and receive guidance from field instructors and K-12 teachers.

Montclair State University (Montclair, N.J.) applies an interdisciplinary approach to innovations based on the needs of public schools. At the college’s Center of Pedagogy, an interdisciplinary body establishes policies and practices. Students are guided through their education by a 12-point declaration of what an educator should know and do.

Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.) closely integrates theory and practice. Candidates begin fieldwork on the first day and continue daily throughout the year. The school is committed to serving traditionally underserved urban-school populations and emphasizes personalized learning and education-reform initiatives.

University of Texas at Austin aims to increase the number of high-quality math, science, and computer science teachers in K-12 schools. Courses and field experiences closely align with a set of guidelines called the Holistic Program Evaluation Model, which contains specific benchmarks for technology integration and learner-centered instruction.


Edutopia report: “Building a Better Teacher”

eSchool News Staff

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