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Commentary: Aligning preparation and induction

Dana Nardello has been an educator for six years, currently splitting her time between serving as a literacy coach in Aurora Public Schools and providing policy leadership with the Denver New Millennium Initiative, a project of the Center for Teaching Quality.

The implementation of a new, more rigorous teacher evaluation system through SB 10-191 will require that teacher preparation and induction be better aligned than ever before. Colorado teachers will be assessed using more rigorous quality standards. We will miss the mark if we do not think comprehensively about building a system that aligns standards for teacher preparation programs with standards for new teacher induction programs.

Currently in Colorado, teacher preparation programs and district induction programs do not align their curriculum, though they are loosely based on the same set of state-established standards. This creates gaps. District induction programs are designed to assist new teachers in meeting the requirements of the Colorado Licensing Act of 1991, (which requires teachers to document successful demonstration of proficiency on state teaching standards).

In a recent review of state policies on teacher induction, The New Teacher Center states, “Research evidence suggests that comprehensive, multi-year induction programs reduce the rate of new teacher attrition, accelerate the professional growth of new teachers, provide a positive return on investment, and improve student learning.”

However, induction programs and mentoring scenarios are different district to district.

With more than 200 approved methods to become an educator in Colorado and 177 school districts each creating its own variation of induction programs, it is no wonder there is a range of quality in the professional learning and support teachers receive. SB 10-191 is our opportunity to set the bar for the quality of teacher preparation and induction programs, using the Colorado teaching quality standards. We must align the standards we use to prepare, support and evaluate our teachers.

Supporting this idea, the New Teacher report states:

“Program standards establish a statewide vision for the purpose of induction and articulate the design elements that comprise a strong induction program. Then provide the criteria and common language by which programs can develop, improve and be held accountable across a state system. A comprehensive set of foundational, structural and instructional program standards makes for a strong set of program standards.”

Aligning induction programs with the Colorado teaching quality standards will, at least, ensure what is offered to teachers will help them meet or exceed the expectations for the state evaluation system.

Currently, teacher preparation programs and induction programs struggle with developing methods to adjust curriculum specific to teacher challenges, in real time. My hope for the future of SB 10-191 would be that all teachers would be provided with professional learning that begins with teacher preparation and continues with an induction program that is differentiated to prepare them for success.

Yet these programs need to drive to the same standards, a point made by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) Blue Ribbon Panel’s “Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers.” Ultimately, I envision teacher preparation programs working in conjunction with school districts to offer flexible learning structures that meet teacher needs in a timely manner.

But first, we must start with alignment.

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