Preparing teachers is a tough gig. There’s a lot to account for: lesson planning, curriculum design, differentiated student support, theories in teaching; the list goes ever on. It’s no wonder almost 66 percent of new teachers feel they weren’t prepared enough.
The White House reported anywhere between 40 to 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years, which is four percent higher than other professions. The turnover costs an estimated $5.8 billion a year.
It’s clear there’s a problem. So how do we solve it? Innovation, of course: As the White House Press Secretary explained, by “exploring new and innovative efforts to make teacher preparation more hands-on, relevant, and effective” and having these programs serve as replicable models.
Here are three leading programs and methods that are worth looking at as potential models:
UTeach at the University of Texas at Austin is raising the bar and quantity of STEM teachers in the U.S. UT Austin certifies more than 70 new teachers a year, and more than 90 percent go on to teach in their respective fields. Roughly 80 percent stay teaching after five years.
The UT Austin model meets success by shaking up the classic four-year university model.
"In the place of general education courses, we created new pedagogy courses with a focus on how to teach math and science with modern theories of learning." said Dr. Larry Abraham, UT co-director and former chair of the College of Education's Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
"UTeach students learn to design and teach inquiry-based lessons that develop critical thinking skills. They have access to the latest research on learning and are prepared to use technology effectively in the classroom."
The program has been so successful that in 2006 the UTeach Institute was developed to help interested universities replicate the program. Currently 40 universities across the country are implementing a UT model. Together UT programs graduated nearly 7,000 new STEM teachers in 2014.
2. Urban Teacher Residencies
The Urban Teacher Residency United (UTRU) and its local programs combine practical learning, hands-on experience, and an extended support network to give its teacher candidates the tools they need to be effective teachers from day one.
Based on a “medical residency” model, UTRU programs combine a yearlong classroom apprenticeship with master’s-level coursework. Residents receive a stipend for living expenses throughout their training year and a master's degree upon completion of the program. They also receive immediate assistance with job placement in the district where their program is located, as well as access to an onsite induction program.
85 percent of UTRU graduates remain in the classroom after three years. The UTRU network began in 2004, when the founding teacher residency programs in Boston, Chicago, and Denver created an informal partnership to best align the residency concept. Now there are more than 15 programs in the network spread out over the U.S.
3. Relay Graduate School of Education
Launched in 2011, the Relay Graduate School of Education (Relay GSE) is one of the newest kids on the block in teacher education. One of the most innovative things about Relay GSE is that one of the determining factors in the graduation of its students is their students’ success. In order to complete the two-year program, Relay students in their second year must show that their students averaged at least one year’s worth of academic growth during the school year.
Relay students must also set a reading goal for each of their students and elementary teachers are asked to show that their students earned an average of 70 percent proficiency on a year’s worth of state or Common Core standards in another subject (usually math). Middle school teachers are asked the same but in their specialization.
The program utilizes video to share the proven practices of model teachers and to capture graduate students on film. This “watch and analyze” method allows students to monitor their own progress and allows for feedback from experienced faculty.
Though it’s too early to tell techniques seem to be working: K-12 students taught by Relay’s 2013 class grew 1.3 years in reading performance in one year’s time.
Closing Thoughts . . . Because teachers are the most important factor when it comes to student achievement, the training of effective teachers is crucial. Keep an eye on these programs and others like them. They may be the future in teacher prep.