Training tool

Memphis Teacher Residency launches new training program

PHOTO: Oliver Morrison
New teachers undergo training in 2014 through the Memphis Teacher Residency.

Almost 300 teachers and graduates of Memphis Teacher Residency will have access to a new training program this year called MTRUniversity.

Leaders of the teacher preparation organization say the supplemental program will help their teachers-in-training learn across all four years of their residency, plus offer training opportunities for program graduates. In their first year, MTR residents work alongside teachers with Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District while attending classes through Union University. In their second year, they apply to jobs with the district in neighborhoods that MTR partners with.

“We realized we were losing three-fourths share of opportunity to continue teaching our teachers new things,” said Matt Campbell, MTR’s director of graduate development.

The additional support and training also should help with teacher retention, said Stephanie Williams, an MTR instructional coach.

“For 20 years, I’ve seen the ups and downs of what it’s like to be a teacher and the struggles new teachers have without support,” said Williams, a former educator with Shelby County Schools. “We did what we could, but it wasn’t enough. Data shows how many new teachers leave within three to five years because of lack of support.”

Only 41 percent of new teachers in Tennessee teach three consecutive years, according to the 2014 Tennessee teacher preparation report card from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. In comparison, 70 percent of MTR graduates from 2012-2013 completed their three-year teaching requirement. MTR reported in 2014 that, for its total number of residents up to that point, 91 percent had completed their three-year commitment.

That’s why MTR is getting into the professional development game: to better support teachers in skills learned on the job, such as classroom management and creating a classroom culture. Teachers who feel supported are more likely to stay, Williams said.MTRU logo

“It’s meant to be everything that the books didn’t cover that you’re going to need,” she said. “I know what I learned in college wasn’t enough, but I had teachers older than me that cared enough walk alongside me. That’s what we’re doing here. That’s what’s needed here.”

MTR is a Christian-based nonprofit organization, launched in 2009, that has developed a strong track record in recruiting and developing teachers for Memphis.

MTRUniversity’s first classes will be held July 11-12 and are open to all MTR teachers. Many are designed for those in their first year of teaching solo. Sessions are planned for the fall and next spring as well. The MTR staff picks some of the sessions, and MTR teachers can submit requests for other relevant courses.

A highlight this summer will be sessions on how to address trauma-related issues in the classroom, which will be taught by Memphis Family Connection Center.

“We recognize that many of our teachers have students coming into the classroom with deep emotional stress,” Campbell said. “These sessions will cover addressing behavior when typical techniques of management fail.”

Most classes will be taught by current Memphis teachers, which MTR leaders view as an asset.

“The further along in a classroom you get, the easier it is to only think about what’s going on in your classroom and building, but this is a great way to see what other people are doing well,” said Courtney Humphreys, an elementary coach with MTR. “Teachers in classroom currently are the most aware of current practices and are able to speak really honestly about works and what doesn’t work.”

Session topics for the July 11-12 dates include:

  • Classroom systems for efficiency
  • Daily 5: Fostering literacy independence
  • Creating a culture of thinking in your classroom
  • Improving your guided reading
  • Screening and discussion of documentary “Beyond Measure,” which will serve as the Memphis debut of the 2015 film about public education in America

teacher prep

Tennessee’s mediocre teacher training programs prompt ‘interventions’ with university presidents

PHOTO: Austin Peay
Austin Peay State University in Clarksville is among four Tennessee schools that have undergone "interventions" with state officials over the quality of their teacher training programs.

Armed with sobering data about the performance of teacher training programs in Tennessee, state officials are holding meetings with top brass at universities where they say programs have grown out of touch with the needs of K-12 classrooms.

About 40 programs in Tennessee feed the state’s teacher pipeline with about 4,000 new teachers annually. The largest are based at colleges and universities.

But those same traditional programs generally aren’t attracting enough high-quality candidates or producing enough effective or diverse teachers. Not a single public university in Tennessee scored in the top fifth of teacher training programs under a state report card issued in 2016. And the outlook isn’t expected to improve much under the 2017 report card being released early next month, officials say.

“This data is sobering. It tells us that higher education must do better,” said Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. “I worry our higher education faculty in colleges of education get disconnected from what a K-12 classroom looks like.”

Krause outlined the challenges to state lawmakers during a presentation on Tuesday with Sara Heyburn Morrison, executive director of the Tennessee State Board of Education.

Their first “intervention meetings” were with the presidents and education deans at four universities: Austin Peay, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Tennessee-Martin, and Tennessee Tech. Similar meetings are scheduled this spring with leadership of private colleges and universities across the state.

Krause described the first meetings as “very productive” — and illuminating. “In many cases, the presidents just didn’t know” about their programs’ shortcomings, he said.

Teacher quality is considered a driving factor in students’ success, making the quality of teacher preparation programs a front-burner issue in Tennessee.  A 2016 report said only a handful of the state’s programs are consistently preparing teachers to improve student achievement based on Tennessee’s TVAAS measure. The State Board’s new grading system also highlighted weaknesses based on racial diversity, candidates’ ACT scores, and whether they are producing teachers for high-need areas such as special education.

Reading instruction is another big challenge. In a state where only a third of students are considered proficient in reading, new teachers are arriving in classrooms ill-prepared to instruct students on Tennessee’s new reading standards. The state is working with higher education institutions so their faculty can take the same professional development on literacy that working teachers are taking.

But for the most part, the State Board has limited levers for improving the quality of teacher prep. The biggest hammer comes every seven years when each program undergoes a comprehensive review for licensure. (In 2014, the state raised its standards and revised its measures for effectiveness to include data such as placement, retention and employer satisfaction.)

Chancellor Keith Carver

Tennessee-Martin Chancellor Keith Carver said his school took its last state report card to heart. As a result of its overall score of 2 out of a possible 4, the university hired an assessment coordinator to help guide decisions based on data. “It’s a really good baseline for improving,” he said of the report card. “We’ve got some work to do in our diversity profile.”

Tennessee’s teacher candidates are overwhelmingly white and female. Of those who completed Tennessee’s programs in 2016, only 14 percent identified themselves as non-white, compared with 36 percent of the state’s student population.

“Colleges of education will not stumble into diversity. There has to be a very intentional effort,” Krause said.

View the full presentation from Tuesday’s legislative hearing below.

Gold standard teachers

Tennessee adds nationally certified teachers but continues to trail in the South

PHOTO: Ruma Kumar/Chalkbeat

Twenty Tennessee educators have earned a national certification that’s considered the profession’s highest mark of achievement, although the state continues to lag in the South in growing that community.

The state Department of Education on Tuesday released the list of new educators designated as National Board Certified Teachers.

Their addition brings Tennessee’s number of NBCT educators to more than 700, with another 63 pursuing certification. By comparison, Kentucky has 3,600, Virginia 3,400, and Georgia 2,600.

“We know that teachers are the biggest factor in the success of our students, and it is an honor to celebrate educators who are helping their students grow, while serving as an example of what it means to be a lifelong learner,” Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement.

Nationally, 5,470 teachers earned the designation in 2016-17, raising the total to more than 118,000 through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The certification takes from one to three years to complete and includes a performance-based peer-review process. Successful candidates must demonstrate a proven impact on student learning and achievement.

In Tennessee, at least 36 school districts offer at least one type of incentive for achieving the certification. The most common is a salary bonus.

North Carolina continues to lead the nation in certification, with 616 more teachers gaining the endorsement last month from the Arlington, Va.-based organization.

Earning their certification in Tennessee were:

  • John Bourn, Franklin Special School District
  • Christy Brawner, Shelby County Schools
  • James Campbell, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Kimberly Coyle, Sumner County Schools
  • Suzanne Edwards, Williamson County Schools
  • Anastasia Fredericksen, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Theresa Fuller, Kingsport City Schools
  • Amber Hartzler, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
  • Jennifer Helm, Williamson County Schools
  • Deborah Higdon, Franklin Special School District
  • Karen Hummer, Franklin Special School District
  • Heather Meston, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Melissa Miller, Franklin Special School District
  • Kelsey Peace, Sumner County Schools
  • Lindsey Pellegrin, Franklin Special School District
  • Andrea Reeder, Williamson County Schools
  • Jordan Sims, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Susanna Singleton, Williamson County Schools
  • Melissa Stugart, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Drew Wilkerson, Franklin Special School District

To learn more, visit the website of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.