The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSU collects data from teachers in the field to improve education curicula

Faculty at CSUs across California are taking another step in ensuring the success of their teachers in K-12 schools to make it the best environment for both student and teachers.

The CSU Center for Teacher Quality based at CSU Sacramento, works to collect data and experiences of teachers out in the field to help current students in the teaching programs at other CSUs.

Dr. David Wright, director of the center said this program was created to see if curricula at the CSUs were helping teachers when they started working in the schools.

“CSUN and the other CSUs campuses  made a lot of changes in their teacher education programs in the 1990s. After they began  implementimg these changes,  the deans met with Chancellor Reed and told him they need some feedback information,” Wright said.

Wright said the center was created after the deans expressed interest in tracking the effects of the changes and Reed offered his support.

“They can’t tell how well prepared they are to be teachers until they are out there doing the job,” said Dr. Michael Spagna, dean of the Michael D. Eisner College of Education.

Spagna said the first two years are critical in a new teachers career because they are learning and growing in the profession.

“We really need to hear from them; what things do they feel they are well prepared in and what things can we do a better job in preparing them to be effective teachers,” Spagna said.

He added CSUN receives the feedback annually from local teachers in the form of surveys and distributes them among the departments and programs.

“For instance, if you were a high-school teacher who’s been out at the local high-school for a few years, we take that survey information back and I give it to the department chair. In this case Dr. Bonnie Erickson in Secondary Education. She then distributes that data among her faculty,” Spagna said.

He added the department would then have a “series of conversations and reflection” about what the data means. The departments decide where they are doing a good job and what areas need improving in preparing young teachers.

Spagna said there are four main areas system-wide where teachers feel they would have preferred to be better prepared.

“(The areas are) working with special needs learners, working with at risk-children such as those kids from poverty, working with English-language learners and better preparation in teaching reading across the different content areas such as history and science,” Spagna said.

He added every year the center analyzes which campus has the biggest impact, and leads a video-conference with the other campuses to share their best practices.

“This year we were singled out at Northridge. It seems we are having a great impact on making teachers feel better prepared in working with English language learners,” Spagna said. “Northridge and Sacramento State were the two campuses that were identified in the last round as having the greatest growth in this area.”

Spagna added CSUN and CSUs will lead the video conference with the rest of the other CSU campuses this April to help with curriculum for next year.

Dr. Ken Futernick, director of the WestEd School Turnaround Center, a non-profit education group, authored the study “A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn” in 2007, in an effort to address the problems in the field affecting schoolteachers.

In the report, Futernick cites certain problems that teachers were having in the school that ultimately forced them to leave the profession.

Futernick writes, “Bureaucratic impediments (e.g., excessive paperwork, too many unnecessary meeting) were frequently cited by leavers. The data also showed that teachers were not asking to be left alone, but instead wanted efficient and responsive bureaucracy that supported their teaching.”

Futernick said along with the problems in the schools, there were constant demands and micro-management from the district offices and above, in terms of curriculum and structure.

Futernick said there are programs such as Beginning Teachers Support and Assessment (BTSA), which has veteran teacher mentor new beginning teachers.

“But it doesn’t always accomplish what it is designed to. There’s an accountability component to it that requires lots of paperwork,” Futernick said. “So this is a perfect example of a program that has great potential to assist beginning teachers once they get into tough assignments that often becomes overly bureaucratic.”

Futernick said schools should be more support oriented and conditions can be improved easily through these tough financial times in California.

“Some of the ways I recommend teaching conditions be improved don’t cost any money at all. What teachers say matters most to them in terms of their teaching conditions is a positive collegial environment, where people are working as a team and  are respected. Get people together and figure out how they can learn from one another and contribute to how the school operates,” Futernick said.

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