Grant helps transform teacher prep

A team of education leaders is using a federal grant to help transform teacher preparation in Idaho.

Idaho is one of seven states that won a Network for Transforming Education Preparation grant through the Council of Chief State School Officers. The two-year, $237,000 grant is overseen by a six-member steering committee in Idaho, which has launched a pilot program involving teachers, mentors and personnel and from all of Idaho’s public and private colleges.

The grant runs through October 2015.

State Board of Education Chief Planning and Policy Officer Tracie Bent, who is a part of the grant steering committee, said one of the big goals is identifying areas that can be measured in order to determine whether or not teacher preparation programs are effective.

The NTEP grant comes with 10 recommendations centered around three areas – licensure, program approval and data collection/analysis. But everything comes back to making sure teachers are ready for students from the first day they enter a classroom.

“I would boil it down to learner-ready. We want teachers, when they come out of teacher prep programs, to be ready to teach our students,” Bent said. “(New teachers) coming out of higher education need to be ready to teach students in the classroom so those students are not their Guinea pig.”

Taylor Raney
Taylor Raney

Work from the grant aligns with at least three recommendations issued last summer by Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education. It lines up the tiered licensure recommendation for educators, as well a recommendation for pre-service teaching opportunities through colleges and a recommendation to participate in the “Our Responsibility, Our Promise” CCSSO program.

Taylor Raney, the State Department of Education’s director of certification and professional standards and one of the point-people overseeing the grant, said the program is expected to pay benefits for students and future teachers.

“The goal is transparency, and the fact that our universities are on board fuels this effort,” Raney said. “It’s about where we can find pockets of greatness and replicate them.”

So far, the grant has brought together leaders of Idaho’s colleges and universities (public and private, two-year and four-year) in important new ways. Previously, new teachers graduating teacher preparation programs in Idaho had to receive recommendations from their school before becoming certified. But those recommendations weren’t built around a common set of data-driven criteria like they will be under this program.

As far as implementation, the grant steering committee is still meeting and finishing up the pilot program. Once the pilot is complete, committee members will develop recommendations and forward them to the new Education Improvement Committees that are working to implement task force recommendations.

After the Education Improvement Committees take it up, the recommendations likely would be implemented in the form of rules officially approved by the State Board of Education.

Although the program might lead to changes and more collaboration between state officials, colleges and teachers, Raney said that doesn’t mean the existing system is broken.

“We already produce some great teachers,” Raney said. “Let’s take the next step. When you hear your student has a first-year teacher, you’re excited about them coming in with great new ideas – not worrying about whether it will be a learning year for that teacher.”

Members of the NTEP grant steering committee:

  • Taylor Raney, Idaho State Department of Education.
  • Tracie Bent, Idaho State Board of Education.
  • Randy Schrader, outgoing Garden Valley superintendent.
  • Penni Cyr, Idaho Education Association.
  • Paula Kellerer, Northwest Nazarene University.
  • Christina Linder, Idaho State University.

Clark Corbin

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