Race to the Top Goes Post-Secondary

This past week I joined approximately 200 other Campus-Teacher Education Network Team (C-TEN) educators and administrators for a State University of New York (SUNY) sponsored discussion on school reform and clinically rich teacher and principal preparation programs. More specifically, my colleagues and I went to hear first hand inspirational thoughts and ideas for managing the ripples of school reform now lapping on the shores of higher education. Titled Advancing the Future of Teacher and School Leader Education at the State University of New York (SUNY) Launch Event: A Convening of the SUNY Statewide Teacher and Leader Education Network (S-TEN)the full-day conference could be considered the official introduction or coming out party of the Regents Reform Agenda to higher education. With Race to the Top now pervading every aspect of public P-12 education and a new teacher certification system called EdTPA ready for implementation in New York State, the rules and stakes of teacher and principal preparation have gone up significantly.

The lineup of distinguished speakers included SUNY Chancellor, Nancy Zimpher; John King, New York State Commissioner of Education; Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University; Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the Board of Regents; and Sharon Robinson, President of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. Though they all wear varied hats in the world of education, each is very familiar with reform, particularly in the areas of Race to the Top and teacher/principal education. In a nutshell, the message was higher Ed is now being pushed to transform itself in the areas of teacher and principal preparation to ready the next generation of educators and leaders. To do this important work, Campus-Teacher Education Network Teams (C-TEN) have been formed across the SUNY system to help disseminate knowledge and skills to colleagues in the areas of curriculum revision, resource development, partnership building, and new practice piloting.

Much like how RTTT was rolled out to the K-12 community through Network Teams, RTTT and edTPA will be expanded across SUNY via C-TENs. The work promises to be exciting, and at times, intimidating. As with K-12 systems, the stakes could never be higher. Teacher programs will be monitored through the P-20 data system that will measure, among other things, how teacher candidates’ K-12 students perform relative to other teacher candidates’ students.  Other criteria include how successfully teacher candidates can find work and how well they hold onto their jobs. Ultimately, these data will be tied back to the teacher preparation schools for potential actions (?) yet to be revealed at this conference.

Higher Ed has a tremendous opportunity to think differently about itself and how it goes about readying students for teaching and leading. We desperately need competent new teachers and administrators fluent and savvy in the areas of Common Core State Standards, Data-Driven Instruction, Teaching Standards and Evidence-Based Observations, Student Learning Objectives, and Annual Professional Performance Review protocols. Such levels of competencies will require programs with clinically rich experiences and cornerstone, job embedded performance tasks. We do a disservice to the field to send out graduates with anything less than the best to hit the ground running in the P-12 educational arena. Perhaps along the way, people will think differently about education, and adapt a new mindset that echoes Linda Darling Hammond’s session ending thought:  “Those who can teach. Those who can’t go into a different line of work.”

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