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FINAL REPORT TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE On the DEFENSE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE SECTION 4: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE PROGRAMS AND DISCUSSION
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FINAL REPORT TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE On the DEFENSE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE Recommendations Recommendation 1. Carefully select candidates for teacher credential programs, even if it means that the program will not be completely filled. In the early 1990’s, professionals with degrees in engineering, mathematics, and science represented a large pool of potential teachers. However, in a subsequent (1998) privately-funded program, to be based in Long Beach Unified School District, the Urban Teacher Preparation and Professional Development Project (UTP), very few applications were received and little media attention was garnered. At that time, the economy of the area was stronger, especially in the science-, mathematics-, and engineering-based industries, such as aerospace. If a program which seeks to provide high quality teachers to urban schools is to be a service to the schools hiring those teachers, then a careful selection process must be maintained, in spite of low numbers of applicants. A successful program must include the school district in the choice of candidates and take into consideration the type of schools, such as urban schools, in which the new teachers are apt to be hired. In the case of UTP, although extensive recruiting was undertaken, there was about one-eighth the number of applicants as for the DRI and of those, very few were able to qualify for the program in the opinion of the school district officials and the UTP staff who were interviewing. During the same time frame, similar results were reported nationally for other programs. 17 The Haberman Urban Teacher Interview appears to be an effective tool for selecting teachers in an urban setting. However, the correlation to accomplishment and retention in the classroom is not perfect, and DRIAB recommends that it not be used as the only selection device. Recommendation 2. Encourage qualified candidates to enter a teaching as second career program by providing adequate financial incentive. The fact that DRI offered a $22,000 stipend plus tuition was a considerable incentive for many of the Fellows to enter the program, according to the DRI Fellows. However, many programs do not have a level of funding to allow for this amount of stipend. Other ways which DRIAB discussed to provide financial support for participants include soliciting corporations for sponsorship of participants and creating teaching internships in which participants are paid to teach while receiving a credential. Recommendation 3. Provide early and frequent entry into the classroom for the potential teachers. Standard teacher credential programs offered in California are made up of an introductory course early in the curriculum which requires some observation in a classroom, followed by a series of didactic courses presented by university professors, and finally by approximately two to three months of student teaching. The student teacher usually has full responsibility for two or three classes under the supervision of an experienced fully credentialed teacher. The opportunity for the student teacher to spend an extended period of time in one classroom prior to student teaching is not consistently present in many programs. It is not surprising, then, that a significant 17 Lawton, Millicent. “Math, Science Teaching Recruits are Elusive”. In Education Week, July 13, 1998.
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FINAL REPORT TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE On the DEFENSE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE number of potential teachers never actually enter the classroom after receiving their initial credential.18 The DRI program sought to circumvent this waste of financial and human resources by placing the DRI Fellows into the classroom early, and continuing the field experience throughout the entire course of study. Having been in the classroom with increasing responsibilities facilitated an easier transition into student teaching for the DRI Fellows and contributed to a lower attrition rate as compared to national and California figures.19 In addition, the careful placement of the student teacher or Fellow with a fully credentialed teacher also needs to take into account the credentialed teacher’s commitment to the teaching style being sought and their enthusiasm to for the Fellow to continue learning in the classroom rather than getting free time while the student teacher takes control of the classroom. Recommendation 4. Present both the recommended pedagogy and content matter together when relevant as well as in ways that model good teaching practices. Presenting the didactic material at times when it was relevant to the prospective teachers enhanced the learning experience for the DRI Fellows. The university professors were able to assign targeted observations and special field projects that could then be discussed in class. This type of instruction, sometime referred to as “just in time instruction”, has been shown to be effective for many types of students. Engineers, who are accustomed to real-world applications, can especially benefit from having the instruction relate directly to the experiences. Not only did the university courses become more meaningful to the potential teachers, but the modularization of the courses into one-credit units allowed for mid-course correction when it was required. As the CSULB faculty received feedback from the Fellows, the Cooperating Teachers, and the external evaluator, they were able to make changes in module timing and subject matter coverage, such as adding more information on classroom management. Recommendation 5. Foster a sense of professionalism and importance of career-long learning in new teachers. The importance of promoting a sense of professionalism in teachers, which includes career-long learning, has been stressed through many recent publications.20 This sense of professional development was introduced early in the DRI program, before the credential program was actually completed. After providing two years of follow-up professional development activities for the Fellows, a university mathematics professor was asked to ascertain the continuing needs of the Fellows and make recommendations to them about further professional development programs. 18 Michael McKibbin, Report to the DRIAB on Alternative Certification, September, 1998. 19 Moskowitz, Jay and Stephens, Maria, eds. From Students of Teaching to Teachers of Students: Teacher Induction Around the Pacific Rim. Published for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation by U. S. Department of Education. 1997; Mary Jane T. Pearson and Bill Honig. Success for Beginning Teachers. California Department of Education, Sacramento. 1992. 20 National Research Council. “ Science Teaching Standards” National Science Education Standards. National Academy Press. 1996; National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future. “Recommendations: An Action Agenda for Change.” What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future. 1996.
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FINAL REPORT TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE On the DEFENSE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE While it may be beyond the scope of many credential programs to maintain a follow-up program after the newly credentialed teachers begin teaching, information about, opportunities for, and encouragement toward career-long professional development should be part of any teacher preparation program. Recommendation 6. Provide new teachers with a support system. The DRI project confirms the effectiveness of programs such as the California Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program which provides funding for school districts to work with newly inducted teachers to make the first few years of teaching as smooth as possible. School districts which take advantage of the legislated $67 million show significant improvement in the retention rate of beginning teachers. Universities and school districts alike need to address how new teachers are inducted into the profession. Studies have shown that where all professionals take active roles in a new teacher’s entry into the profession, success rates of new teachers are the highest.21 Teachers with seniority feel it is their right to have the smallest, most advanced, easiest to manage classes, so new teachers get stuck with the most difficult students in large, low-level classes. This is in contrast with teacher induction in other countries as reported in studies funded by Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).22 In many countries, new teachers are given the easiest classes to teach, reduced teaching loads, and special, required professional development opportunities. It is entirely possible that a study of induction of new teachers with recommendations for future practice that builds upon the APEC study is a necessary next step. Discussion It is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom in order determine the success or failure of a program. In the case of the DRI program, the external evaluator and DRI staff sought opinions of school site administrators and other teachers. These colleagues of the Fellows consistently rated the DRI Fellows as exhibiting good teaching ability, overall participation in school activities, and leadership capabilities. If the majority of the DRI Fellows remain teaching in inner city schools, as appears to be the case at the writing of this report, then the DRI program can be said to have reached one of its goals albeit at a substantial funding level. If the DRI Fellows continue to explore standards-based mathematics and science teaching and to lead other teachers in their schools to do the same, as has been reported to be the case by the external evaluator, then the DRI program has accomplished another of its goals. The most important aspect of effective teaching, whether or not the students are learning, is one of the most difficult to assess in the two and a half years that the Fellows have been teaching. This does not allow enough time to track such measurements as improvement of student scores on standardized tests. Moreover, the effectiveness of a teacher is not always marked by such improvement or non-improvement. The effect a teacher has on a student’s life often does not appear 21 Moskowitz, Jay and Stephens, Maria, eds. “From Students of Teaching to Teachers of Students: Teacher Induction Around the Pacific Rim”. Published for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation by U. S. Department of Education. 1997. 22 Ibid.
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FINAL REPORT TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE On the DEFENSE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE until later in the life of that student. Dr. Martin Haberman, in his book Star Teachers of Children in Poverty23, states that, for children in poverty, school and leaming are not just necessary for earning a better living, it becomes a life and death issue. Their existence depends upon being able to break out of the life of drugs, gangs, and gang violence to which so many are exposed. Nowhere is the possibility for helping young people leave that life behind more evident than in the story of the DRI Fellow whose students call Mr. G: Mr. G came to the DRI project with over twenty-five years of aerospace design engineering experience. “I grew up in the projects of Chicago, ” he said. “It was wonderful to have teachers who motivated me to keep out of trouble, finish high school, and go to college. I want to be able to provide that same motivation to young people who may not think it possible for them to succeed.” An African-American, Mr. G chose to teach in a middle school in the troubled and challenging Compton School District. As a first year teacher, Mr. G was assigned four seventh grade mathematics classes and one science class. None of his classes had less than 45 students and he was not assigned a teacher ’s aide or a new-teacher mentor. His last-period science class had 56 students with less than 45 seats. His assigned classroom had temporary folding tables and chairs, insufficient lighting, no equipment or supplies, and broken windows. “When it rained [during the one of the wettest winters on record], all the kids got done was mop up the water that came in through the broken windows. I asked several times for them to be repaired, but to no avail.” Mr. G developed his own unique way to maintain some semblance of order in his large classes. If a student refused to sit down or be quiet after being asked several times, Mr. G would get on his cell phone, which he carried at all times, and call the student’s parent or guardian. “Of course, most of my students didn’t live with both of their biological parents. Many of them lived with grandparents or were wards of the court placed in professional foster homes. These people did not like to get calls from the teacher and that served as an incentive for the students to behave.” Mr. G was a vocal advocate for his students in the school and he finally ran afoul of the administration when he allowed a photographer for the Los Angeles Times to photograph the broken windows in his classroom. “At least I got the windows fixed!” he said. Mr. G did not return to Compton School District the following year. He began the year substitute teaching in Long Beach Unified School District. A member of the Special Forces during the Vietnam conflict, Mr. G gained a reputation early in the year as a teacher who could handle the tough students. He was asked to join the mathematics faculty at the continuation high school, a school for recalcitrant students who have not succeeded at other high schools. “My goal for my students is to help them get meaningful employment when they leave high school. Realistically, most of them will never go to college, and unless they have the skills necessary to get decent jobs in a technological world, they will be out on the streets robbing stores, doing drugs and gang-banging. Every one of my classes has all levels of abilities in it, because the students are not grouped according to their skill level in mathematics, but according to grade level. I have to be innovative in my approach. At any one time, I 23 Haberman, Martin. Star Teachers of Children in Poverty. Kappa Delta Press. 1996.
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FINAL REPORT TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE On the DEFENSE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE have students helping students, students who are doing individual work on computers, and students working in small groups. I require every one of my students to do a Geometry tutorial on the computer in every class, no matter what their mathematics skills. At least I can pretty much try anything I want, because all the district wants is that I keep the kids under control.” Mr. G is chairman of the technology committee for his school and is determined to have one of the best computer labs in the district. “For these kids, being skilled on the computer just might save their lives. It might make the difference between being able to find a job with good pay versus hitting the streets and being shot to death.” He thinks his work is important to society, and he doesn’t hesitate to pitch this angle with potential donors of computer equipment, because if he and his students are successful, they won’t be on the welfare rolls or in jail cells. Mr. G is back at the continuation high school for a second year, with a new mission. “The district is establishing new mathematics standards and graduation requirements, but they don’t apply to the continuation high school students. All other students must take Algebra to graduate. I want the same to apply to my students. High expectations produce high results. These kids deserve the same expectations as other students.”
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