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Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as Group Seeks To Align Staff Development With Student Standards

Group Seeks To Align Staff Development With Student Standards

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Group Seeks To Align Staff Development With Student Standards

Now that state policymakers have begun to realize that what teachers know directly influences what students learn, the National Staff Development Council is mobilizing to push for changes in teacher-development programs.

The council, an 8,000-member organization based in Oxford, Ohio, has formed groups in 10 states to push for aligning professional development more closely with academic standards for students--and requiring such programs to show their impact on student learning.

The council has set up "staff-development-leadership councils" at the state and local levels to advocate practices that support outstanding training. It will provide them with information on good programs and related technical support.

"This effort represents the best hope for influencing state and local policies that connect effective staff development with improved student performance," Stephanie Hirsh, the associate executive director of the council, said in announcing the initiative.

California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Texas are involved in the enterprise, which is underwritten by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

In Texas, for example, where education officials are designing a relicensing system that will require teachers to show that they can improve student learning, the state staff-development-leadership council is working to provide incentives for teachers to participate in activities that produce results for students, not just credit hours for teachers.

Money for the Middle

Meanwhile, the New York City-based Clark Foundation and two other national philanthropies have pledged $900,000 to launch two middle school initiatives over the next two years.

Grants to the National Forum To Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, a national network of leaders, will enable it to communicate its new vision of effective middle-level schooling and to identify "schools to watch" that are working toward that vision.

The other project will bring together leaders in the South to work on middle-grades reform. The Southern Forum To Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform will involve educators from 10 states who will have opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills, share their expertise, and work with others on middle school reform.

Along with the Clark Foundation, the projects are being supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Kiddie Lit

Underprivileged children from across the country will be given the opportunity to own new books, thanks to a reading initiative and fund-raising program launched this month by a nonprofit literacy organization called First Book.

To recognize and support the establishment of Reba's First Book Club, led by the country and western singer Reba McEntire, such major publishing companies as Houghton Mifflin, Scholastic Inc., and the Simon & Schuster Children's Division, have donated 500,000 new books to the Washington-based organization. The goal of the program is to give more than 3 million books to at-risk children in 300 communities in the next year.

In addition to raising money for the purchase of books, organizers of First Book are drafting free membership materials for the club and planning regional literacy events aimed at pre-K-8 children.

More information on Reba's First Book Club is available on the World Wide Web at www.rebasfirstbook.com.

Free Advice

When new English teachers step into the classroom for the first time next fall, they can count on advice from veteran educators and other resources as part of the TEACH 2000 initiative sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English.

The organization, based in Urbana, Ill., is offering free membership to all first-year teachers for the 1999-2000 school year.

The new teachers will have access to an online directory of mentors, information on classroom management, advice for working with parents, and tips on using technology. They will also get a subscription to NCTE publications and discounts on books and convention registrations.

More information on TEACH 2000 is available by calling the NCTE at (877) 369-6283, or by visiting the Web at www.ncte.org.

Settling In

With all the attention being paid to helping new teachers become acclimated to their jobs, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has received a one-year, $150,000 grant from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund to plan a national network of programs that help new teachers settle into their classrooms.

The program will focus primarily on induction programs for teachers in low-income communities, which typically have much higher turnover rates than more well-to-do areas.

Based in Washington, the association will collect information on successful new-teacher induction programs across the country, conduct site visits, convene representatives from exemplary existing programs, and form a national advisory panel to design activities that will guide the network.

If the initial planning year is successful, the association can apply for an implementation grant to carry its work forward.

Lacking Character

Most teachers are ill-prepared to teach character education at a time when polls suggest that a majority of parents and educators want core values taught in schools, a report concludes.

The Washington-based Character Education Partnership and the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University surveyed more than 200 deans and department chairs of teacher education programs throughout the United States to gauge the extent of their respective colleges' commitment to character education.

"Despite the widespread expression of commitment by the respondents, character education is not a high priority in teacher education," says the report, "Teachers as Educators of Character: Are the Nation's Schools of Education Coming Up Short?" Fewer than one-fourth of the teacher education programs have a significant emphasis on character education; those with such an emphasis take very different approaches to the subject.

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they would favor making character education a required element of state teacher certification.

The report is available on the Web at www.character.org, or by calling the Character Education Partnership at (800) 988-8081.

--Ann Bradley, Michelle Galley, and Kathleen Kennedy Manzoinclass@epe.org

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 12

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