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Ensuring all Rhode Island students are taught and supported by excellent educators

“As we work to improve teaching and learning in every school and classroom, we recognize from data we have collected that our highest-poverty school districts face special challenges in recruiting and retaining excellent educators. The Rhode Island Equity Plan aims to take on this issue directly by improving data collection on teacher quality, developing statewide strategies for sharing best practices, and providing targeted support for teachers working in our highest-poverty schools.” - Education Commissioner Ken Wagner
Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 7/5/2017 | [PRC_COMMENTCOUNT] Comments

Lauren Matlach
Education Specialist

“Why do you work in educator preparation?” 

On June 9, more than 40 faculty and staff members from teacher preparation programs answered this question during the 2017 Educator Preparation Retreat.  The thoughtful and inspiring responses of participants emphasized the critical importance that teachers play in students’ lives.  “Teachers are the start of all kids attaining an excellent education,” one participant responded.  Another participant noted: “Our great kids deserve great teachers.”

So how do teacher candidates become great teachers?  Through practice. 

As noted in Investing in What it Takes to Move from Good to Great, National Board Certified Teachers and State and National Teachers of the Year often cite student teaching as by far the most important experience in their preparation.  Research also shows that teacher candidates are more likely to be effective and to stay in the profession when their preparation experiences are connected to classroom practice. 

This year’s retreat focused on ensuring the integration of high-quality, practice-based opportunities throughout preparation.  Supported by Dr. Amber Benedict and Dr. Teri Marx from the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center, participants from Brown University, Johnson and Wales University, The Learning Community, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, Teach for America, and the University of Rhode Island reflected on their current practices and focused on systemic improvement.

Retreat participants engaged in a series of activities throughout the day.  Below, we share a few highlights:

Opening Remarks – Deputy Commissioner Mary Ann Snider kicked off the day with a few thoughts and reflections.  She praised RI’s preparation programs for the steps they have taken toward meeting the increased expectations articulated in the Rhode Island Educator Preparation Standards.  Looking forward, Deputy Commissioner Snider encouraged programs to keep the learners—both the PK-12 students and teacher candidates—at the center of this work.

What Does High Quality Clinical Preparation Look Like? – Drawing upon her brief, Learning to Teach: Practice-Based Preparation in Teacher Education, Benedict highlighted the features of high-quality, practice-based opportunities.  She focused on three overarching ideas that should guide the development of practice-based opportunities: focus, duration, and coherence.  After the presentation, groups reviewed practical examples collected from preparation programs throughout the nation and discussed the pros and cons of various approaches.

Panel – During lunch, Dr. Benedict and representatives from Rhode Island preparation programs discussed the use of video analysis in candidate preparation. Dr. Joann Hammadou from University of Rhode Island’s world languages preparation program shared how her candidates analyze videos from Teaching Foreign Languages K-12, a video library produced by WGHB Educational Foundation with the American Council of Foreign Languages, throughout their preparation.  Dr. Hammadou emphasized how the use of video helps candidates ensure that 90% of their instruction occurs in the world language.  Dr. Madge Thombs from Roger Williams University shared information about how candidates at Roger Williams use video.  Given the increasing role of technology in instruction, candidates also have an assignment where they develop instructional videos to be used in lessons.


Team Time – The most useful part of the day was team time, where teams of educators from each preparation provider worked collaboratively to self-assess their own programs.  Using Learning to Teach: A Framework for Crafting High-Quality, Practice-Based Preparation as a guide, teams identified next steps for continuous improvement. 

Looking Ahead – The day concluded with previews for upcoming work that connected to the day’s focus of practice.  RIDE will host a calibration session that brings together PK-12 principals and preparation program staff in October.  The collaborative session will create space for those involved in providing timely feedback to teacher candidates to work together in refining what they are seeing during an observation of practice.  RIDE also kicked off its Shadow a Candidate Challenge.  The challenge mirrors the Shadow a Student Challenge.  Programs received a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for the challenge.  Programs are in the process of planning to shadow one of their candidates with a focus question in mind.  Follow #edprepshadowri to see what's happening! 

When asked what inspired them to continue to work in educator preparation, retreat participants cited a variety of reasons: the critical importance of the work, the opportunity to learn continually, the enthusiasm and growth of candidates.  For some, inspiration comes from seeing candidates deliver a stellar lesson that helps students rise to academic challenges. 

When we see excellent instruction, we praise the teacher but we don’t always think about the many moments—of learning, of practicing, of receiving feedback, of honing skills—that came before.  Practice-based opportunities are essential to teacher development, and they are a team effort.  If we want our kids to be taught by excellent educators, we must begin with excellent preparation and ongoing support.  We must begin with practice. 

Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 6/16/2017 | [PRC_COMMENTCOUNT] Comments

Lauren Matlach
Education Specialist

The media often portrays the education profession as being in a state of crisis, with half of all new teachers leaving the profession within five years.  Is this the case in Rhode Island?

RIDE recently worked with the Regional Education Laboratory Northeast & Islands (REL-NEI) to analyze the mobility patterns of early career teachers.  In this study, we tracked all teachers who had 0-2 prior years of teaching experience in Rhode Island public schools in 2011-12 through 2015-16.  From this information, we determined the extent to which teachers stayed in their current schools, moved to another school, transitioned to another role, or left Rhode Island public schools altogether.  Below, we evaluate statements we commonly hear and share whether they are true or false based on our recent analysis.

1. More than half of early-career teachers leave Rhode Island within five years.

False.  Seventy-seven percent of the 2011-12 early career teachers were still teaching in Rhode Island public schools in 2015-16.  Another 1 percent of early career teachers continued working in Rhode Island public schools but in a different role (i.e. as a support professional or administrator).  While there certainly is additional work that Rhode Island can do to support and retain early career teachers, the data do not support claims that half of new teachers leave within five years.

2. Early career teacher mobility is higher in high poverty schools.

False.  The analysis found that early career teachers tended to move, stay, change roles, or leave Rhode Island public schools at similar rates across school poverty levels. 

3. Early career teachers in high minority schools leave teaching in Rhode Island or change roles at higher rates than teachers in moderate or low minority schools.

True.  The REL-NEI analysis found that 29 percent of teachers working in a high minority school left teaching in Rhode Island compared to approximately 20 percent of teachers working in moderate or low minority schools.  Additional efforts are needed to understand why early career teachers working in high minority schools left teaching between 2011-12 and 2015-16 at higher rates than early career teachers in low and moderate minority schools. 

4. Middle school early career teachers have the highest mobility rates.

False.  During equity plan stakeholder sessions, we often heard that people thought middle school teachers moved schools at higher rates.  However, the data do not support this claim.  In fact, elementary early-career teachers had the highest mobility rate (36 percent) compared to 30 percent at the middle school level and 22 percent at the high school level.  High school teachers had the highest rate of leaving Rhode Island public schools (25 percent). 

5. Early career teachers identifying as non-white tend to leave Rhode Island public schools at higher rates than white teachers. 

False.  Teachers tended to move, stay, change roles, or leave at similar rates regardless of their minority status or age.

6. Male early career teachers tend to stay at their original schools compared to female early career teachers.

True.  The analysis found that 60 percent of male early career teachers stayed in their original schools from 2011-12 to 2015-16 compared to 51 percent of female teachers.

Based on the information above, what was most surprising? 

Thanks to this analysis, Rhode Islanders now have some additional information about teacher mobility in the state.  However, there are important limitations to this analysis.  Although the sample size is substantial (1,256 teachers), the analysis icnludes only one cohort of teachers.  It is possible that mobility patterns in future cohorts might vary.  We also know that 20 schools closed or reorganized between 2011-12 and 2016, which may have slightly inflated mobility numbers for this cohort. 

Another limitation is that an early career teacher’s status is based solely on years of experience teaching in Rhode Island public schools; as a result, some teachers classified as early career teachers in the analysis may have prior experience teaching in private schools or in a different state.  To address this issue, RIDE is changing its Personnel Assignment System so that future analyses will be able to account for a teacher’s previous experience working in other states. 

Most important, the descriptive analysis conducted with REL-NEI does not get at an important question: Why? 

In the coming months, RIDE will be working with REL-NEI to conduct additional analyses that look at the relationship between educator preparation program experiences and subsequent educator evaluation ratings and mobility patterns.  RIDE will work to understand better why these mobility patterns exist. 

We also want to hear from you!  Why do you think female early career teachers change schools more frequently than males?  Why do you think teachers working in minority schools tend to leave the profession at higher rates than their counterparts in schools with lower minority rates?  Were these findings surprising to you?  Let us know @RIDeptEd and @lkbivona.

Have questions about the study or interested in learning more?  If so, please e-mail Lauren Matlach at lauren.matlach@ride.ri.gov.

 

 

Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 12/19/2016 | [PRC_COMMENTCOUNT] Comments

Nikos Giannopoulos
2017 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year


Many say that teaching is a thankless job. I think anyone who has ever taught knows that that’s simply not true. Students and families appreciate when teachers go above and beyond expectations and they are often generous with praise and appreciation. These school/family partnerships are what make teaching such a truly fulfilling and special career.

On the other hand, schools are lively institutions with many individuals working toward a common goal. Sometimes, hardworking teachers may feel that their work goes unnoticed by administration, fellow educators, or the communities in which they serve. In order to support our innovative educators, we must foster an environment that nurtures their best characteristics and recognizes exceptional work. We must all continue—as parents, community members, fellow educators, and leaders—to find opportunities to recognize our state’s exceptional educators.

In my role as Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, much of the most rewarding work I’ve done has been supporting educator recognition efforts. The NBC 10 Golden Apple Awards are a local institution - almost every student, teacher, and parent has seen these brilliant educators publically recognized on prime time television. This year, I have been privileged to read the nomination letters and visit the classrooms of these distinguished teachers. Though they come from schools all over the state and teach a variety of subjects, the one thing they all have in common is that they lead classrooms that are innovative, rigorous, supportive, and joyful. I am consistently struck by how much of an impact an individual educator can have on a school, their students, and their community. Highlighting those who have pushed themselves to be the best they can be for their students, the Golden Apple Awards are an affirmation that everyone benefits from high quality teaching.

On September 24, 2016 Waterfire Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Education co-hosted the annual Salute to Rhode Island Educators. This gathering serves as an annual awards ceremony for the State Teacher of the Year, the District Teachers of the Year, Milken Educators of the Year, Presidential Award winners and many, many others. Beyond the awards, the night is meant to celebrate all Rhode Island educators. On this night, I was honored to be able to address my peers, my colleagues, and all Rhode Island educators. My message was one of gratitude. As a special education inclusion teacher, my work is dependent upon collaborating with other talented educators. We are all important members of the same team, striving for the same goal. When we recognize greatness in education, we elevate and strengthen the entire profession.

In one of the more unique moments of the evening, Barnaby Evans, the creator of Waterfire, brought over a container full of glowing blue objects.  He called these creations “dream orbs”. We were told to think about our dreams for a brighter future and gently toss them into the basin of Waterplace Park. As I prepared to toss mine in, I kept in mind the incredible educators that I’ve met from around the state. I thought about the students, young and old, from diverse backgrounds and communities who came out to support their teachers. I thought about how in one year’s time, one of the teachers standing with me would be the next Rhode Island Teacher of the Year and how their school community would rally behind them and support them through the journey ahead. I smiled, knowing how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful state, full of talented educators, and a community that values their efforts. Feeling overwhelming positivity about the future of education in our special little state, I released the glowing orb into the water and looked forward to celebrating again next year!

For more information about the Rhode Island Teacher of the Year program and how you can help, please click here.

 


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