With their efforts increasingly focused on direct evidence of student learning gains, school systems are in need of teachers with the specialized skills necessary to bring standards-driven instruction into the classroom, according to Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington.
Speaking at a conference of the American Association for Employment in Education in Boston on Nov. 8, Ms. Harrington said schools are seeking teachers who can create a “classroom culture” that inculcates the latest evidence of what drives student improvement. That includes frequent assessment to inform instruction, differentiated student-learning paces, and an emphasis on nonfiction reading and writing, she said.
Successful teachers in today’s school culture, Ms. Harrington added, have a “laserlike” focus on student achievement, provide ample personalized feedback to students, and control the classroom environment in a positive manner.
Ms. Harrington, a former special education teacher and principal, also gave specific examples of the types of preservice training today’s teachers need. Desired candidates for an elementary school position, she said, should have:
• two to three reading classes or, preferably, an elementary endorsement in reading;
• two to three mathematics classes or an elementary mathematics endorsement;
• a class in assessment, particularly in using multiple assessment types;
• knowledge of data analysis;
• strong writing skills; and
• fluency in or working knowledge of a second language.
During interviews, Ms. Harrington recommended, teacher candidates should be asked to describe their use of content standards and assessments, their grading philosophies, the emphasis they place on student writing, and their discipline systems.
If the first thing a candidate says about student discipline is negative, she cautioned, he or she is “not worth hiring.”