Transforming Teacher Ed in Michigan

If Eduflack had a nickel for every time I heard that it is just too difficult and too time-consuming to transform and improve teacher education, I’d have … sacks and sacks full of those Thomas Jefferson-portraited coins.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Late last week, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation (an organization near and dear to Eduflack’s time and focus) hosted a national convening of its Teaching Fellows in Detroit. The convening provided prime examples of how teacher ed can and has been addressed to meet the demands of the 21st century classroom. Educators from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and Georgia gathered to talk about the value of their preparation at 28 universities through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship and how that preparation has translated into success in their classrooms.

In delivering remarks to the gathering, Stephanie Hull, EVP and COO of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, spotlighted the specific efforts in Michigan, the host state for this year’s event. In her speech, Hull noted:

Here’s a snapshot of the work that took place through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship in Michigan:

  • Every one of WW’s partner institutions transformed its teacher preparation curriculum to focus on a yearlong clinical experience and rigorous coursework tailored to that experience.
  • Every one of these partner universities established school-centered clinical placements and helped place Fellows in positions in high-need schools.
  • Every one of them created a double mentoring system, working through both the university and the school to support Fellows throughout their three-year teaching commitment.
  • Every one of them developed new partnerships between the education school, the arts and sciences, and in some cases the school of engineering to make all of this work.
  • Four of the six collaborated with the Detroit Public Schools to create a shared approach to mentoring, including the preparation of mentors and the kinds of support that mentors would receive in working with Fellows.
  • Of all the Fellows enrolled in the Michigan program, 80 percent were certified;
  • By the time Michigan’s last cohort of Fellows was admitted in 2014 — that’s the group of Fellows who are finishing their second year of teaching this year — we were seeing 100 percent placement rates; and
  • Retention of WW Teaching Fellows in the program has consistently been in the 90 percent range.
  • Among the schools where these WW Teaching Fellows teach, 95 to 98 percent of these schools are high-need schools, with about two-thirds of the students in these schools on free and reduced lunch, and 60 to 70 percent are students of color — so the Michigan Fellows have absolutely found their places in the schools where great STEM teachers are most needed and can make the most difference.
  • Finally, all six of the partner institutions reported to us that they had diffused the WW Teaching Fellowship model into their other graduate-level teacher preparation programs, and three had also extended it to their undergraduate STEM teaching programs as well.

These are impressive results, particularly when all we seem to hear about Michigan is the problems and struggles its educational institutions face. It shows anything is possible. And it demonstrates that tomorrow’s exemplary teachers are already being prepared today.


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