We can’t give every child access to a great education without highly effective educators. But improving educator quality isn’t easy—it requires coordinated, aggressive change across multiple institutions, including schools, districts, states and even universities.
It’s clear that no single entity can tackle this problem alone. So, in the newest round of ESSA plans, it is encouraging to see a number of states propose collaboration—between educators, with teacher preparation programs and with broader groups of stakeholders—as a strategy to improve instructional quality. Of course, a plan alone isn’t worth much—follow-through is what matters. But we’re hoping that states will take advantage of the flexibility afforded to them in ESSA to improve classroom instruction while promoting equity.
Collaboration Between Educators
- While teachers are frequently recognized as the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement, principals and school leaders are critical as well. In its ESSA plan, Florida is proposing to create statewide communities of practice between principals to support concrete and actionable professional learning.
- Idaho is taking a similar approach. The Idaho Principal Mentoring Project (IPMP) provides an opportunity for early career principals to be paired with a highly distinguished principal or superintendent trained by the state to be a mentor. The newer principals will benefit from direct coaching as well as a toolkit of resources. Going forward, all new principals in schools designated for comprehensive support and improvement will be required to participate in the program.
Collaboration with Teacher Preparation Programs
- One of the most important challenges facing our schools is ensuring that new teachers are prepared from their first day in the classroom. Maryland is establishing Regional Teacher Learning Centers (RTLCs) to help solve this. The RTLCs will provide services such as coordinated professional development between institutes of higher education and districts, support for the development of better internship experiences and better coordination between teacher preparation, new teacher induction and professional learning opportunities.
- Mississippi has recognized that some districts struggle to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. That’s why they are assisting districts in the development of “Grow-Your-Own” programs. These programs help to create a local pipeline for the teacher workforce by partnering with local community colleges, building pathways for paraprofessionals to become teachers and even recruiting prospective teachers starting in high school.
Collaboration with Broad Stakeholder Groups
- Teacher preparation is—and ought to be—an “all hands on deck” effort. In order to improve their teacher preparation system, West Virginia developed the High-Quality Educator Stakeholder Committee, which is composed of P-12 practitioners and leaders, educator preparation program faculty and representatives from the West Virginia Department of Education. The committee is taking a close look at all aspects of teacher preparation programs in the state, including evaluating program standards and impact.
- Similarly, Mississippi has partnered with the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform Center (CEEDAR) to improve its teacher preparation programs. The goals of the partnership are improving teacher and leader preparation programs, revising licensure standards and aligning policy structures and professional learning systems.
We still have a lot of work to do to improve the quality of our educator workforce. But strategic collaboration can keep us moving in the right direction. We’ll be keeping a close eye on these and other states as they continue to work to give better educational opportunities to all students.