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Ed Knows Policy

EKP -- a local (Washington, DC) and national blog about education policy, politics, and research.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Teacher Induction: Ed Week Stenographers at it Again

Teacher induction programs, which provide mentoring and other kinds of on-the-job support and training to new teachers, are much overlooked as the education policy of the future. Induction programs are to teaching what remedial reading is to the first year of college. Effective induction will be absolutely critical until we figure out how to raise the quality and preparation of new entrants to the profession. Overambitious alt cert programs, weak ed schools? You name your villain, but most new teachers are not ready for prime time in their first year (TEACHERS: please educate me otherwise in the comments if I'm wrong about that).

Teacher induction is often a home-grown affair, with districts putting together programs by themselves or in parntership with local colleges of education. But there are national purveyors as well, and the New Teacher Center at Santa Cruz is the big kahuna in this market. NTC's biggest score was a $30m project to work in New York City. The first year implementation report--a self-evaluation--is here (pdf).

The thing that really bugs me is having found the report by way of Ed Week ($), which seems to have their problem again with a malfunctioning bullshit filter. (continued below)

This report on the first year of implementation is about as self-serving as it can be. By the way, not all first year implementation reports are this uninformative -- see Wolf et al. on the DC voucher opportunity scholarship program. But I can't blame NTC. They said their program was "promising" because, well, the world didn't explode.

Their mentor ratios ran high--I think, by reading between the lines, but they don't come out and tell you how high, except to say that "a number of mentors" had more than the target of 17 teachers. Seventeen teachers! Well, mentor ratios are like class sizes. It sounds great to shrink them, but it's not clear whether it's cost effective to do so. I'd like to see how effective the program was. Anyway, Ed Week says "roughly 17" but I think they didn't bother to ask NTC what the number really was. If 17 is the target and they had some go over, then they must have had an equal number go under to average "roughly 17." If it sounds like I'm nitpicking on Ed Week, then I am, because they are supposed to be journalists, not stenographers, skimming report abstracts and summarizing them. Lowly bloggers can do that (and we throw in snark for free).

As you would expect, Ed Week repeats in their lead the unsupported claim that "the program shows promise for boosting their quality and helping stem the number who leave." When you tack on the attribution, "a report has found" you absolve yourself of any responsibility, right, Bess Keller of Ed Week? Wrong. You could have at least pointed out in that first lovely sentence that this is the claim made by the folks selling the program.

That makes a big differences when you read further down that the report recommends extending the program for a second year. As if $30 million for one year was not enough. Of course NTC is going to recommend that policymakers buy the deluxe 2-year edition of their product. Remind me, how is this Ed Week story not an infomercial? The model was well suited to the district. The "structural challenges" (read: excuses) seem to have victimized poor NTC, who fought bravely against all these external problems like poor communication and travel times between schools. If your mentors can't get from school to school in the most densely settled city in the country, how can they do it anywhere else? Come on, Ms. Keller, ask some tough questions for a change. You're charging money for your site. This blog is free and I don't even use ads.


Blogger curmudgeon said...

It has been my experience that the challenge for new teachers is NOT about presentation technique, or knowledge of the subject, but they are awful at classroom management.

One cannot teach if all of one's efforts are directed at trying to get the classroom quiet enough to be heard.

10:53 AM  

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