exclusive

Striking deal with Touro, Success jumps into teacher preparation

The Success Academy Charter Schools network is jumping into a new market — higher education. Thanks to a new agreement with Touro College, this year Success Academies officials are teaching courses that will help the network’s newest teachers earn master’s degrees.

For the last four months, 42 teachers from the network’s 14 schools have been taking classes at Touro College’s Graduate School of Education, including some taught by members of the Success staff who have joined the Touro faculty as adjunct professors. The program is fully funded by Success Academies and will culminate in a master’s degree and teacher certification.

Full-time Touro professors will teach about half of the academic courses in the program, and Success-affiliated adjuncts will teach the other half, according to Alan Kadish, Touro’s president. He said the full-time and adjunct professors would also jointly supervise the practical training required for graduation.

The agreement positions Success one small step closer to a possibility founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz laid out in her recent book, “Mission Possible.”

“Our intensive, immersive, school-based teacher training program could eventually become a formal graduate school program,” she wrote. The book also lambasted traditional teacher preparation programs as “completely inadequate.”

In an interview, Moskowitz said the partnership with Touro is a response to the network’s rising demand for teachers that meet its standards. Success opened four new schools this year and is set to launch another six in 2013.

“While we certainly hire teachers from a lot of the big education schools, given our rate of growth frankly there isn’t the pipeline that we need of potential teachers,” she said. “We’ve got to think a little outside of the box.”

Success’s internal training regime, which Moskowitz and co-author Arin Lavinia outlined in “Mission Possible,” includes an apprenticeship program where new teachers spend a year working with a more experienced teacher as well as real-time coaching that gives teachers rapid feedback, sometimes through an earpiece while they are still in front of students.

The agreement with Touro makes Success the latest entrant in a growing national effort to tighten the connection between teacher preparation and classroom results. The movement draws fuel from studies confirming what school leaders have long complained: university credentials do not predict whether a teacher can help students learn.

New graduate programs are sprouting up across the country to try to solve this problem. In New York, three charter school networks — Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First — teamed up to open the Relay Graduate School of Education in 2011 with the goal of uniting preparation and practice. And just this week, the city Department of Education announced that it would petition the state for the right to certify teachers itself in some subjects, a move that would circumvent higher education completely.

The U.S. Department of Education joined the push with its 2010 Race to the Top competition, which required states to commit to defining teacher quality not by the degrees teachers hold but by how well their students perform on measures of academic achievement. The competition also called on states to start assessing education schools according to the performance of students their graduates teach.

New York State took home $700 million in the contest and is now in the process of adopting new certification standards that focus more on practice and less on coursework. Teachers will have to submit videos showing themselves in action to get the state’s seal of approval.

Relay, like a small group of education schools around the country, takes the challenge one step farther, requiring future teachers to show that their own students are making academic progress before they can graduate. (The University of Michigan’s school of education and the new Charles Sposato Graduate School of Education, opened by the MATCH Charter School in Boston, are rolling out similar graduation standards.)

Just as Success is now sending its students to a Success-infused program at Touro, Relay grew out of a partnership with CUNY’s Hunter College. The program at Relay reflects its founding networks’ focus on high-poverty student populations, academic performance, and on offering concrete techniques for instruction and classroom management. About 40 percent of the program takes place online.

About 70 percent of Relay’s 550 current students teach in charter schools, including 55 who work at Success schools. Moskowitz said Relay was “much more alternative” than the program she is developing at Touro, but that Success teachers would continue to attend multiple training programs even as the network formally associates with one.

“We’re going to have to let a thousand flowers bloom and develop that pipeline in a variety of ways,” Moskowitz said.

Relay co-founder and president Norman Atkins said he welcomed new innovations in teacher preparation. “We need more public education leaders like Eva to bring their effective professional development models into the field of teacher preparation,” he said in a statement.

State Education Commissioner John King said the Success-Touro partnership represents only one of many promising efforts to reshape teacher training.

“I think what you see is a trend nationally of folks trying to figure out how to better connect teacher preparation with what’s happening in schools,” King said. “That’s reflected in the state’s move to the new performance-based certification assessment for teacher candidates, and it’s reflected in initiatives like what Eva is doing [and] what Relay has done.”

Touro could seem an unlikely choice of partner. In 2007, an investigation found that several administrators at its education school had been awarding grades and even diplomas in exchange for payment.

Moskowitz said she chose the partnership because Touro is geared toward serving students who are working full-time. It offers weekend and evening classes and sends instructors to students where they are, so Success teachers’ training will happen mostly at the network’s schools.

Currently, Success teachers are not taking any classes with other Touro students because of the charter network’s unorthodox school day, which runs until 5 p.m. four days a week and ends at noon on Wednesdays, according to a spokeswoman for Success. But they might well take classes alongside other Touro students in the future, especially if they choose to specialize in narrower license areas, Kadish said.

For Touro, the arrangement provides an influx of students who have been screened according to the network’s selection criteria at a time when the school, like all teacher preparation programs, faces new scrutiny about its graduates’ performance in the classroom.

Kadish said in an interview that working with Success presented an opportunity that was hard to turn down.

“Their network was expanding, and we thought, why not?” he said.

But he said the agreement that Touro reached with the network was not the only arrangement that officials from the two schools talked about.

“There were discussions about doing some kind of experimental program,” he said. “We decided not to do that. … We talk about all kinds of ideas that we don’t implement.”

Some Success Academies staff members with advanced degrees are already working as adjunct professors at Touro, including the network’s executive director of pedagogy, Paul Fucaloro. Kadish said Moskowitz, who has a Ph.D. in American history, could one day join the faculty as well.

A source who is an experienced teacher-educator laid out one downside of the new approach: Smaller and more specialized programs run the risk of failing to prepare graduates for careers that could eventually span multiple schools.

“It’s like having a master’s degree in computer science versus being trained as a Windows technician,” said the source, who declined to speak on the record because he was not authorized to speak about his knowledge of the Success-Touro agreement.

He added, “There’s a fair question [that] people who are certified out of Relay or Success/Touro … will have general teaching licenses and could eventually go elsewhere in their careers. But will they be technically trapped by a methodology that may not apply to another environment?”

Kadish, Touro’s president, said the answer is no, at least for Success Academies’ teachers who come to his school. They will be getting a Touro education with a Success spin, he said.

“We certainly take advantage of the practical experience teachers have as part of their curricula everywhere. To the extent that Success already offers that, it’s advantageous,” he said. “But it doesn’t substitute for the core coursework we require of our students.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.