Thursday, September 10, 2009

Teacher-quality: growing it in place

The Benwood Schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee offer compelling evidence of the preparation and support needed for effective teaching in high-needs schools.... Initially, reformers assumed that teachers already working in the then-struggling schools were the problem, and the solution would be to recruit “better” teachers from elsewhere. Over time, however, some of the most impressive student achievement gains were associated with the growing effectiveness of teachers who had been at the Benwood Schools even before reform efforts began. With effective leadership, improved training, quality peer assistance, and a specialized master’s degree in urban education, these teachers were able to improve their teaching. Student performance rose accordingly. It taught a powerful lesson: Great teachers can be cultivated from within high-needs schools, not just recruited to them.
The "Benwood Schools" are so-called because the Benwood Foundation funded a major push to improve Chattanooga's weakest schools starting in 2000.

The Benwood change story is offered as a model approach in Children of Poverty Deserve Great Teacher (report here and Prichblog posts here and here.)

The story also strikes me as consistent with a deep Kentucky principle. We operate proudly on the assumption that huge numbers of students can achieve at substantially higher levels if we provide the right support. I think we should assume the same thing about educators: nearly all can become more effective at their craft given an environment that supports their growth.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!