How to Radically Improve Teacher & Principal Preparation

by | June 21, 2016

How can new teachers and principals start their jobs prepared for educational excellence, and how can the schools that hire them know they’re ready to excel? In today’s preparation systems, no one is fully getting what they need—not aspiring teachers and principals, not schools, not students. There is a better way.

In Opportunity Culture® schools, Multi-Classroom Leadership creates the potential for aspiring teachers to experience paid, full-time, yearlong residencies led by excellent teachers who lead instructional teams. Similarly, Multi-School Leadership, in which excellent principals lead two or more schools, creates the potential for paid, full-time residencies for aspiring principals—particularly ones who have already led instructional teams as multi-classroom leaders. New school models allow both teacher and principal residents to be paid for a year within existing budgets.

In a new brief from Public Impact®, we show how to create such residencies. The teacher residencies are nothing like typical student teaching, in which schools—largely as a courtesy to teacher preparation programs—allow any teacher to supervise aspiring teachers on a part-time basis for a single semester, sometimes rotating among classrooms in unaccountable roles. Similarly, most new principals today lack substantial instructional leadership experience.

Instead, we envision a future in which every aspiring teacher and principal works as a paid, full-time, full-year resident coached by the nation’s best educators, while being screened for potential hiring.

The benefits are clear:

Residents gain great coaching and a year to practice as part of a team of teachers or principals who provide a network of support—with pay and benefits.

Educator preparation programs offering such residencies get the potential for strong student recruitment and retention; better outcomes, faster—after a year of training and mentorship under an outstanding educator; reduced strain on preparation faculty—with time to engage residents in focused ways and more time for research; and lower costs and higher faculty pay.

Schools, districts, and states gain the potential for better selectivity, recruitment, and retention; meaningful contributions from residents; the chance to screen job candidates based on performance; and, for those hired at the school of their residency, continuity from a full year of induction into the school’s culture and expectations.

And students benefit throughout, from stronger school leadership and teaching in the early years, and potentially stronger educator recruitment and retention.

These residencies are a natural outgrowth of new roles:

  • multi-classroom leaders—strong teachers who lead small teams and are accountable for outcomes in each grade and/or subject, for higher pay within school budgets; and
  • multi-school leaders—strong principals who also earn more for leading more than one school, teaching their team of principals how to lead a team of multi-classroom leaders.

Multi-Classroom Leadership, optimized with extra paraprofessional support for teams, breaks the one-teacher-one-classroom mode, creates a new team-based support structure for teachers and students, and frees funding that makes a salary for aspiring teachers possible.

Because multi-classroom leaders can continue to teach while leading teams, providing extensive support to their teams through co-planning, coaching, co-teaching, and team collaboration, Multi-Classroom Leadership has been the most popular—and highest paid—model that Opportunity Culture® schools have used to extend the reach of their excellent teachers to more students within recurring budgets. Team teachers report positive experiences from the support they receive from their multi-classroom leaders—support that should be extended to all aspiring teachers in the U.S. Opportunity Culture® schools with principals who lead strong, schoolwide teams of multi-classroom leaders in core subjects have shown the largest, fastest gains schoolwide in the first years of the Opportunity Culture® initiative.

Read Paid Educator Residencies, Within Budget: How New School Models Can Radically Improve Teacher and Principal Preparation , by Stephanie Dean, Emily Ayscue Hassel, and Bryan C. Hassel.

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