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A.F.T. To Develop 3 Professional-Practice Schools

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Washington--The Exxon Educational Foundation has awarded a $640,000 grant to the American Federation of Teachers to support the development of three pilot professional-practice schools.

Backers describe the proposed institutions, which will be jointly operated by school districts and universities, as both training grounds for new teachers and laboratories for research designed to improve teaching.

As envisioned by the aft and other proponents, such schools would be similar to the teaching hospitals commonly used to train medical professionals.

"Just as the teaching hospital provides examples of good practice and high institutional standards, these professional-practice schools have the potential to establish models that can be far more than the traditional semester of student teaching," said Albert Shanker, president of the union, in announcing the grant.

The award is part of a long-term collaboration in this area between the aft and the Exxon foundation. With support from the foundation, the union last year commissioned and published a detailed monograph on the ideas and principles that should undergird professional-practice schools. It is also planning to establish a clearinghouse on the subject.

The award will support the development of three such schools in sites around the country. Marsha Levine, co-director of both the aft's Center for Restructuring and the project, said the selected pilot schools will be announced in the spring.

1986 Reports

The project is one of a number of recent efforts to develop such schools, which are also known as clinical or professional-development schools. (See Education Week, April 12, 1989.)

The notion of creating improved training sites for teachers gained prominence in 1986 with the publication of national reports by theie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession and the Holmes Group, a consortium of research universities dedicated to teacher-education reform.

Both studies called for the creation of such schools as part of a larger effort to revamp teacher education.

The aft has taken a broader approach to the idea than some other groups involved in this area. It maintains that professional-practice schools also should be "restructured" schools that give teachers a more influential voice in all areas of school governance and operations.

"As we work to restructure schools, teachers will take on new roles and responsibilities," Mr. Shanker said.

"Professional-practice schools will help educators determine how teachers will learn these new skills and how they will adapt to their environments," he added.--dv

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