Program aims to transform, improve educator training

Daily Sundial

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The Carnegie Corporation of New York has chosen CSUN, among other schools, to help create a program to prepare future K-12 teachers, and will be providing $5 million over the next five years to do it.

The grant is part of an initiative from the Carnegie Corporation called Teachers for a New Era, a program aimed to develop a model teacher preparation program that might be adopted by other institutions.

“We want to change teacher education, (and) improve it in a dramatic way,” said Steven Mercer, coordinator for Teachers for a New Era.

In an effort to fix the quality of education, the grant helps target the single most important issue, the quality of teachers, Mercer said.

Because some teachers leave the profession after one to two years of feeling discouraged, the TNE program tries to link concrete evidence of successful teaching habits to actual student learning, Mercer said.

While practitioners of medicine and law professions have built-in mechanisms by which to measure their success, education has no real system in place to measure whether teaching methods are effective, Mercer said. Compared with the medical field, the College of Education lacks the rigorous “stair-step” system that ensures success after graduation, Mercer said.

“We don’t have the time to make sure there is success after graduation,” Mercer said. “We kind of forget about them.”

Mercer said the TNE program follows three principles, including the idea of clinical practice and on-the-job training, as opposed to just classroom work. Secondly, the concept of the arts and sciences is important in the program. Finally, important decisions about teacher education have to be supported by evidence, he said.

“This is the first year to begin clinical practice at sites such as Langdon (Avenue) Elementary, Sepulveda Middle School, and Monroe High School,” Mercer said.

CSUN is working to ensure that new teachers, through coursework and mentorship, get through the first two years of a teaching career, Mercer said.

In partnership with the LAUSD, the TNE project asks for participation to prepare new teachers, said Nancy Prosenjak, professor of education.

“Carnegie’s concern is that lots of universities prepare teachers,” Prosenjack, said. “We want to make sure they’ve chosen teaching as a lifelong career.”

The program “embeds students in the context of the school,” Prosenjak said.

Student teachers are often isolated, and by allowing them to work together, they benefit from the contact, Prosenjak said.

“I think these teachers will be well prepared, since they have the dedication, knowledge and skills,” Prosenjak said.

CSUN was among 11 universities chosen nationally to participate in the TNE program, Mercer said. Other universities taking part in the TNE program include Stanford, Michigan State University, and Bank Street College of Education in New York.

CSUN student Mark Fulinara, senior film production major, said he feels that receiving a grant through the program is beneficial.

“I think it’s great we’re getting extra money and it’s going toward the betterment of the educational status quo,” Fulinara said. “It’s great that we’re raising the bar of the quality of our future educators.”

Compared to other universities educating future teachers, CSUN contains a diverse urban fabric, with a diverse student body, Mercer said.

“CSUN represents reality,” Mercer said. “We can offer a huge contribution to teacher education nationally.”

The Carnegie Corporation does not allocate money strictly to CSUN’s College of Education, but also distributes the grant to other departments, such as those in the areas of arts and sciences, Mercer said.

The university distributes the grant money to partners, such as the LAUSD, community colleges, and other CSU universities, Mercer said.