Drawing on lessons learned from over a decade of investment by the National Science Foundation in reforms in STEM education, we have undertaken a systemic approach to transforming the preparation of educators and leaders, with the following core elements:
Many of the policies needed to foster and hold teacher educators accountable for effectively educating children are already in place. Given NH’s consistently high national rankings on the National Assessment of Education Progress’ tests, the state has demonstrated clearly its ability to produce educators who serve children effectively. However, the skills students need in the 21st century for lifelong learning and educational and economic opportunity are changing rapidly, as are the learning dispositions and demographic diversity they bring to school. The recent logarithmic rise in online and hybrid learning presents further challenges for educators and those who prepare them.
In response, in 2005 we enacted policies governing school approval requiring that all high schools identify the competencies students are expected to master in every course, and requiring schools to allow students to “test out” of a course if, through performance assessment, they demonstrated mastery of that course’s competencies (e.g., they acquired conversational French skill through a summer spent in France). This created the opportunity for, but not yet full realization of, a sea change in P12 education in New Hampshire, one in which P12 education becomes based not on “seat time”, credit hours, or even traditional courses, but on ensuring all students master essential competencies. To realize this sea change, additional policy changes are needed.
For several months, a subcommittee of the NH Professional Standards Board (PSB) has met to revise regulations governing the criteria for assessing preparation programs, to ensure they align fully with this vision for performance based mastery of essential competencies. For two years, the NH Council for Teacher Education (CTE) has been revising the preparation program approval process, to ensure that the focus of institutions of higher education (IHEs) and of external reviewers of their programs is not on “inputs” (e.g., number of courses taught) but on outcomes (e.g., demonstrated mastery of skills required for certification). In light of new federal expectations regarding preservice program accountability to contribute measurably to P12 student achievement, we are further revising policies for program approval criteria and process, to ensure IHEs are held accountable for the extent to which their graduates produce high levels of P12 student achievement, as assessed via a mix of standardized and performance assessments.
We have initiated a statewide conversation among the several NH IHEs that seek national accreditation by NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) or TEAC (Teacher Education Accreditation Council), to identify and eliminate those aspects of the state’s program approval process that duplicate national accreditation. Given the commitment of NCATE and TEAC to align their accreditation criteria to the Council of Chief State School Officer’s Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), this will ensure alignment of the NH program approval process and criteria to these criteria. Notably, INTASC has just updated its criteria significantly to reflect the compelling need to produce future educators and school leaders who know how to equip students with 21st century skills.
Development of a statewide network of P-20 partnerships committed to learning about, implementing and showcasing practices that demonstrate to others in NH what “21st century” pedagogy, assessment and educator development means and looks like.
Changes in state policy (regarding educator preparation, credentialing, the state longitudinal data system, assessment of educator effectiveness, etc.) are essential to achieve meaningful school and preservice program reform at any scale. However, educational change is also an intensely social process, where the many key stakeholders – school board members, administrators, inservice and preservice educators, state legislators, taxpayers, and the media – must come to consensus.
Policies and exhortations alone to educators and school leaders to adopt research-based 21st century educational practices will not lead to meaningful changes in local educational practice. Educators must see what these practices really are. In May 2010, we launched a statewide network of P-20 partnerships committed to learning about, adopting and demonstrating what these practices look like, that produce quantitative and qualitative evidence of their efficacy, and give educators, policy makers, and other key stakeholders statewide a practical, visceral understanding of what 21st century education means and what they can do to replicate it
Sustained statewide conversation among P-20 educators regarding how schools most need to transform in order to address the challenges of 21st century learners, learning environments and skills.
Real change – at a meaningful statewide scale – in preparation and P12 education also requires sustained statewide conversation, where those outside the statewide network of P20 partnerships can inform and learn from the partnerships’ efforts.
We have begun this conversation. Supporting this network, the leaders of the state’s teacher unions (AFT and NEA) and state associations for school board members, superintendents, principals and special education administrators have committed to mobilizing their resources and their membership to support the work of these P20 partnerships and to replicate lessons learned from their efforts. These associations also have conducted statewide surveys of their members, asking them: (1) in what ways do schools most need to transform to equip P12 students with 21st century skills; and (2) how can other educators and state leaders support their respective members’ ongoing efforts to realize this vision?
The initial results of their research were presented at a highly publicized statewide event. In collaboration with Promethean (a global leader in interactive whiteboard and personal response system technology), the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and the George Lucas Education Foundation, in May 2010 the NHDOE along with 11 other state associations held an intensive, highly publicized invitational summit for 150 educators and policy makers, on “Redefining Educator Development for 21st Century Learners”. Members of P20 partnership teams from each of the 15 NH IHEs that offer preparation programs joined state policy leaders to (1) strengthen existing and create new P20 partnerships committed to learning about, adopting and showcasing 21st century educational practice, (2) develop the new statewide network of these partnerships, so they could support and learning from one another, and (3) begin to identify additional state resources, systems and policies needed to institutionalize and expand this network. Underlying these aims is our conviction that educators and key stakeholders simply must engage in a sustained effort to build a shared understanding of and commitment to fundamentally new approaches to pedagogy, student assessment, preservice and inservice educator development, educator accountability, the teacher’s role and career path, technology integration, what constitutes adequate field experience prior to earning a beginning educator credential, and by what multiple measures we will assess educators’ and leaders’ master of advanced competencies to earn the “experienced educator” and “master educator” credentials.
New Hampshire sent a contingent of nine educational reform “thought leaders” to an invitational summit for 100 such leaders nationwide, held in December 2009 in Austin TX (www.redefineteachered.org). The summit was initially proposed by the NHDOE’s administrator of preparation program approval, who also co-chairs the national commission on technology and the future of teacher education. The national summit on “Redefining Teacher Preparation for Digital Age Learners” produced policy and action recommendations for IHEs and state and federal policy makers which will be presented in June 2010, and regarding which the Council for Chief State School Officers, National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and ten other national convening organizations will meet during June 16-17, 2010 to identify specific actions they will take to foster sustained implementation.
New Hampshire is the first state in the nation to move on this agenda and take concerted steps to ensure both that these policy and practice reforms are undertaken, and that they are operationally defined by teachers, school and district leaders, teacher educators, school boards and others in ways they understand and can carry out. Without an operational definition of the most urgently needed changes in practice and policy, and broad consensus among essential stakeholders, reform efforts in New Hampshire and nationwide will continue to be futile.