Changing the Field: Lessons Learned from Federal Analysis
By: Ali Picucci, Senior Vice President of Impact and Learning, New Teacher Center
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New Teacher Center is deeply committed to analyzing and evaluating what supports work best for teachers, mentors, and coaches. Our programming is rooted in research and we revised our approach throughout the course of our 20 years in the field to fully reflect teachers’ needs and ending inequalities in education to close the achievement gap.
NTC received several grants from the Department of Education that have facilitated evaluating our programs and ensure we focus on improving our support for teachers working with the highest needs students. Now, seven years following the award of the i3 Validation Grant in 2012, we are cautiously optimistic as preliminary i3 Scale Up results reaffirm that our work is making a difference for educators and students.
Early results found that in districts with high percentages of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch program (average of 77%), when teacher mentors receive NTC’s professional learning, the teachers they mentor are more effective and their students learn more.
While these results are exciting and critical for students, it is not enough. We have so much more to do. As we unpack these results and think about what we are learning, we see several best practices emerge that should shift how we support educators:
1. Give mentors and coaches time
Over the years and with more constrained budgets, we have seen a large number of mentors/coaches holding other positions, often being full-time teachers themselves. Part-time or partial-release mentors and coaches don’t have as much time to build and practice their own instructional support skills, let alone limiting the time they have for actually coaching and mentoring teachers in the classroom. Regardless of whether a mentoring/coaching role is full-time or part-time, sanctioned time to support teacher development is necessary.
2. Integrate academic standards in a whole child approach through optimal learning environments
For over a decade, we’ve seen an increasing national shift toward more rigorous academic standards for students at every level. Ensuring that students are ready and able to achieve academically is the core component of any child’s education. And raising the bar for all students is the essential role of educators and organizations like NTC. Yet, we know students need more than academics. Students need to build their identities as learners and develop agency over their learning so they can access rigorous content and achieve academic success.
As part of our i3 Scale Up Grant, NTC provided mentors with deeper supports and learning around implementing rigorous standards while promoting whole child development. We anchored our training content and formative assessment guides to create optimal learning environments that integrate academic development with social emotional development and respecting the unique backgrounds of all learners. This Optimal Learning Environment Framework has resonated with teachers as way to understand how to articulate what they are asked to do each and everyday.
We are optimistic about the potential of these initial findings and what they can mean for the students and teachers in classrooms across the country and we are passionate to do better. We will continue to share what we are learning from Scale Up sites. As this is our last year of implementation with our partners, we are excited to dig into more outcome data as it becomes available.
And, of course, we want to express our deep gratitude to our district partners who are engaging in this learning journey with us: Fresno Unified School District, CA, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, FL, New York City Public Schools, NY, Polk County Public Schools, FL, San Francisco Unified School District, CA.