A New Focus for Education Division of Carnegie Corporation of New York: Teacher Quality in School Reform

RECENT GRANTS PROMOTE BETTER TEACHING FOR BETTER SCHOOLS

With the nation's spotlight focused on the need, in the next decade, for 2.5 million new teachers created by the retirement of baby-boom-era teachers and the growth of the school-age population, Carnegie Corporation of New York announces a cluster of grants focused on the need to improve the quality of America's teachers, not just their quantity.

At its February board meeting, the Corporation's Board of Trustees approved grants totaling $2.8 million to five nonprofit organizations that will focus attention on the critical role teachers play in the school reform movement. The grants recognize teachers' contributions and the critical need to provide them with the training, support and rewards required to perform one of society's most demanding and important jobs.

"We know that the country's future is in the hands of the next generation of teachers," says Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, whose career has been dedicated to teaching and higher education. "If the country only focuses on the quantity of teachers necessary in the future rather than the quality of the teacher corps it will have made a grave mistake." Gregorian has made reforming teacher education a key priority for the Corporation's grantmaking.

Daniel Fallon, chair of the Education Division and a national figure in teacher education reform, is leading the Corporation's work in this area. "We now know quality teaching is the hallmark of successful schools," says Fallon, "but efforts to recruit quality teachers and improve their training have not kept pace with other aspects of the school reform movement. As it stands, only about 500 of the nation's 1,300 education schools are nationally accredited and, in a recent federal survey, a majority of teachers said they felt ill-prepared to meet many of the instructional challenges they face in the classroom," Fallon adds. "Many teachers are not prepared because they are asked to teach subjects they did not major or minor in at college."

Educators fear that because many school districts are facing a shortage of teachers that could become critical, some of them will lower teaching qualifications in order to staff classrooms.

This acute problem is aggravated by a chronic one: more than 30 percent of all teachers, and up to 50 percent of teachers in large urban districts, quit within five years. "These numbers suggest that in order both to recruit and retain excellent teachers, we need to do a better job of honoring the profession, preparing teachers and helping them cope with the challenges of the classroom early in their career," says Fallon.

The grants lay some of the groundwork for Carnegie Corporation's new efforts in teacher education by quantifying the importance of good teaching; informing civic and school reform leaders about the critical need to improve teaching in poor districts; increasing public awareness about the causal link between good teaching and good schools; and, finally, developing model training and support systems for new teachers.

"Teaching is what schools are all about," adds Karin P. Egan, program officer in the Education Division. "Under President Gregorian, the Corporation is recognizing the need, at this critical time, for the nation to put a much higher value on recruiting the best and brightest candidates for the classroom, giving them superior academic training and rewarding them on a par with other professionals."

AN OUTLINE OF THE GRANTS AND PURPOSES:

Develop methods for measuring the value of quality teaching.To build a solid research foundation for improving teaching, the RAND Corporation, with a $476,500 grant, will fill a gap in knowledge about the relative importance of good teaching. For much of the last century, and especially since a landmark study done at the University of Chicago in 1966, the prevailing view among educational scholars was that the most important factors affecting student achievement were not inside schools but outside--in particular, the parents'social and economic circumstances. That view often undermined efforts to improve schools and teaching. But more recent research, done at the University of Tennessee in the 1990s, indicated that the quality of teaching is the most important variable affecting student achievement. RAND, based in Santa Monica, California, will advance the state of knowledge in this area by testing various methods of measuring teachers' contributions to student achievement.
Daniel Koretz, senior social scientist, RAND, 1200 South Hayes Street, Arlington, Virginia 22202-8111. (703) 413-1100.www.rand.org

Promote the importance of good teaching to school reform leaders. Because too many educators and community leaders still assume that poverty, rather than poor education, is largely responsible for low student achievement, Education Trust, Inc., a Washington, D.C., advocacy organization, will expand its work in challenging that unsupportable view. With a $1 million grant, the nonprofit organization will work with independent researchers in developing an Internet database on student performance by race and income. The interactive database will allow educators, journalists, policymakers and advocates to analyze the achievement gap and compare communities on a state and national level. The Trust will also collect research on effective teaching and produce a variety of educational materials, including a downloadable PowerPoint presentation on the importance of good teaching that civic leaders and educators can use in addressing public meetings.
Kati Haycock, director, Education Trust, Inc., 1725 K Street N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20006. (202) 293-1217.www.edtrust.org

Inform the public about the importance of teachers. While most Americans acknowledge in surveys that quality teaching is important, parents and other citizens have largely left the public debate about teaching reform to the experts--school officials, teachers' unions, taxpayers' groups and other special interests. But without public support and participation, reforming the profession of teaching will continue to sit on the nation's back burner. To increase public awareness that school reform must include teaching reform, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has received a $439,200 grant to develop a model program for informing citizens and civic leaders about teacher quality issues--and encouraging their participation as advocates for improving teacher preparation and development. The Committee, a nonprofit citizens' reform group based in Lexington, Kentucky, is widely credited with setting the stage for the passage of Kentucky's landmark school reform law. Building on its experience in Kentucky, the Committee will develop a comprehensive public information campaign, which other states and districts could use as a model.
Robert F. Sexton, executive director, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, P.O. Box 1658, Lexington, Kentucky, 40588-1658. (859) 233-9849. www.prichardcommittee.org

Improve teacher preparation and development--and retain more teachers. Around the nation, teachers complain about the same old problems: their preparation programs are more theoretical than practical; neophyte teachers often receive the toughest class assignments with little support; and professional development programs usually gloss over one of teachers' greatest challenges, responding to children's different learning styles. To improve teacher training and make teachers' jobs more fulfilling and manageable, Carnegie Corporation is supporting the work of the following two organizations:

The Strengthening and Sustaining Teachers project, based at the University of Washington in Seattle, has received a $490,200 grant to create an entirely new model of career development for teachers. The goal is to provide new teachers with a support system and tailored training from pre-service through their fifth year of teaching. The model is being developed in three mid-sized public school districts: Albuquerque, New Mexico, Seattle, Washington and Portland, Maine. The project is managed by a coordinating council, which includes representatives from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, the Institute for Educational Inquiry, the Teacher Union Reform Network and Bank Street College of Education.
Patricia A. Wasley, dean, College of Education, University of Washington, 222 Miller Hall, Box 353600, Seattle, Washington 98195-3600. (206) 616-4805.www.washington.edu/research/guide

The Exploratorium, a San Francisco science museum, has received a $471,400 grant to evaluate, refine and promote its model program for helping new science teachers get a successful start in their careers. Museum staff, who have worked with teachers for more than 30 years, are developing a comprehensive two-year program for new teachers. It provides teachers with support groups, mentors, coaching from veteran science teachers, a four-week summer institute and Saturday workshops on such topics as lesson designs and teaching diverse groups of students. The program will involve 150 new teachers and 170 experienced teachers over a two-year period in several nearby urban school districts. Research on the program will be used to develop a manageable and cost-effective model for other districts to use. After the model is completed, it will be shared nationally through the use of workshops and publications.
Goery Delacote, executive director, Exploratorium, 3601 Lycon Street, San Francisco, California, 94123-1099. (415) 561-0325.www.exploratorium.edu