Senior Writer and Government and Community Relations
For the past two months, David Steiner, executive director of the Institute for Education Policy, his deputy Ashley Berner and I have been meeting with legislators from across the state to introduce them to the work of the institute. Steiner sees the institute as offering state policy-makers the best available information on proven programs to help students achieve academic success. He plans to accomplish this by providing access to high-quality research, commissioning research that responds to real-world needs, advising on interventions to narrow the achievement gap and providing a forum for interested parties to dialogue on students’ educational outcomes.
On December 1, we traveled to Annapolis for a series of meetings with legislative leaders and members of the policy committees that included an afternoon briefing on reforming teacher-preparation programs. Steiner was first on the agenda, followed by Jack Smith, state superintendent of education, and representatives of the University System of Maryland who presented the results of a year-long effort to develop an action plan for the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers.
Steiner didn’t hold back when he told committee members “The nation’s teacher-preparation programs are falling short of preparing teachers to be the effective instructors that every child needs regardless of the child’s background or readiness to learn.
“Survey after survey shows fewer than half of new teachers believe they are ready for the realities of the classroom, such as teaching students of diverse backgrounds, analyzing performance data and setting goals or planning instruction. The 1,400 schools of education have a lot of work to do,” he added.
His presentation included a review of what’s working in other states and his recommendations on ways to strengthen programs. When a legislator asked what would be on his wish list for reform, Steiner said he would like to see schools of education:
• involve high-performing teachers in the redesign of teacher-preparation programs,
• adopt a residency-based model similar to what is done in medical schools, and
• work with school districts to extend training programs through the first year of actual classroom teaching.
“Teacher-preparation programs stop when students begin actual teaching, but we know that the first year is the most critical for all new teachers. It’s the worst of their entire career.”
We ended the day by meeting with Sheila Hixson, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Steiner discussed how the Institute for Education Policy is intended to serve the interests of policy-makers. Delegate Hixson invited us back to brief the full committee when the General Assembly begins next January.
Click here to see Steiner’s presentation followed by the full briefing.