Tools for Action Quality Teaching
A large percentage of U.S. students do not have a problem accessing good teaching. They are always taught by a fully certified teacher, teaching in their specialty area, with a manageable number of students, and enough materials. But a significant number of students do not have comparable access. They get more than their fair share of inadequately prepared or inappropriately placed teachers. They are students who live in school districts that are forced to hire less-than-fully-prepared teachers or to ask teachers to teach subjects in which they did not specialize. Recognizing these gaps, IDRA has taken an unwavering stand for quality teaching for all students – teaching that is characterized by strong content knowledge and effective pedagogy, quality decision-making in the classroom, self-efficacy, innovation, capacity to teach diverse students, and is grounded in community and institutional support. IDRA’s work is guided by the conviction that all students deserve success.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – IDRA has established effective alternative certification programs through three transitions to teaching projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Using three key components (early identification and recruitment, pre-service training for certification and placement, and sustained in-service training/professional development and support) Transitions, for example, is impacting several colleges and universities and high-need school districts by increasing the number of fully-qualified and credentialed ESL/bilingual teachers working with English language learners in high-need schools.
Conducting research – IDRA recently presented results from its early childhood education research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference in Chicago. The research was done through IDRA’s Reading Early for Academic Development (READ) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. This project established in participating preschools "centers of excellence" that ensured reading, cognitive and emotional success for all children. It emphasized working personally with the teachers in their classrooms through demonstrations and mentorship to create dynamic environments where children were creative, engaged, discovering and communicating with each other. The result was that teachers and children gained significantly from this experience, as the centers built capacity in applying early childhood education best practices.
Informing policy – In a school district in Arkansas, the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity is implementing IDRA’s Engagement-Based Sheltered Instruction model to prepare and assist secondary teachers to properly and appropriately serve limited-English-proficient students, a population of students that is fairly new to the community. The center has assisted the district to set into place policy and transformed educational practice to support the cadre of teachers who are a part of the focused education assistance.
Engaging communities – IDRA’s newest project, Capacity Building Evaluation for Rio Grande Valley (RGV) grantees, involves IDRA working with 13 organizations in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas that receive grants from the Marguerite Casey Foundation. IDRA is providing guidance and technical assistance to the grantees so that each organization develops a plan for an integrated progress monitoring system that is informed by an in-depth assessment of their current capacity and context, and develops and uses an integrated system of data collection and analysis that informs and guides their work, reaching the capacity needed for sustaining impact.
What You Can Do
Get informed. In a recent Harvard Education Letter interview, Dr. Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, discussed the Classroom Assessing Scoring System (CLASS), which measures the quality of instruction in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. CLASS is able to provide a familiar framework for recording classroom events and focuses on three broad domains of supportive teacher-pupil interactions: emotional, organizational and instructional. It provides educators with a tool for describing and discussing what good teachers do. This in turn can be applied year to year, allowing for a consistent experience for students. A consistent approach is invariably valuable because research has shown that for struggling students, having an effective teacher several years in a row plays a key role in stabilizing achievement gains. See http://www.edletter.org/insights/pianta.shtml.
Get involved. Parents can establish parent study groups to reflect on educational issues that affect the quality of education that English language learners and recent immigrant students receive. They also can meet with other parents to discuss ways of working with teachers and administrators to ensure that a quality education is being provided to their children.
Get results. Visit your state education agency’s web site for more information of how your state is doing in addressing the needs of different student populations.
[©2008, IDRA. The following article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]