The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has announced that Sharon P. Robinson, its president and CEO, will retire next year. Robinson will officially leave her position in July 2017 after more than 10 years of leading the organization, which represents colleges and universities that have teacher-prep programs.
“Dr. Robinson has steered our organization through a critical period of development and growth, even when the financial and political climate threatened to set us back,” board of directors chair Dr. Jane Bray said in a statement. “Under her leadership, AACTE has not merely survived but forged ahead with strategic action to unify the profession, boost our voice in the policy arena, strengthen program quality, and improve the field’s capacity to serve diverse learners.
Robinson took the helm of the association in 2005, when the teacher-prep field was already under immense pressure to show that it was not resistant to change and could provide evidence that its training methods were producing classroom-ready educators.
“It’s like being on a high wire, in the center ring, in the spotlight, with no net,” Robinson said in a 2005 Education Week article about her new appointment.
Seven years into her tenure, Robinson was taking policymakers to task for not doing enough to “build capacity and innovation” in ed schools and railing against critics who she said used faulty methodology to rate education schools.
When the U.S. Education Department issued its draft rules for teacher-prep programs in November 2014, Robinson voiced concerns over the requirement for states to create a ratings system by which to judge program quality. She argued the effort would inhibit innovation in teacher prep. “Frankly, building a ranking system really does not seem like the smartest way for higher education to use its precious time and energy,” Robinson told EdWeek at the time.
The final rules, released earlier this month, retained the rating-system requirement but included some modifications.
While Robinson has been a staunch defender of schools of ed, however, she also acknowledged that the teacher-education field needs better accountability. In 2014 statement criticizing a review of teacher-prep programs by the National Center on Teacher Quality, Robinson allowed that education schools should be “evaluated on transparent, well-researched standards with a clear understanding of what needs to change. If programs fail to improve, then they should be closed.”
Some highlights of Robinson’s tenure, according to the AACTE, include:
• Helping to develop the Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA, designed to be a more rigorous test of teacher candidates’ readiness for the classroom. The edTPA requires a portfolio of lesson plans and a video of the candidate teaching. Education school faculty and teachers across the country grade the tests.
• Expanding the Holmes Scholars Program, which supports doctoral students from historically underrepresented backgrounds who are pursuing careers in education.
• Launching the Innovation Exchange, a forum where educators can share new approaches and technologies used in teacher preparation.
• Assisting in the merger of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditor Council (TEAC) into a unified accreditor (CAEP) for the teacher-education field.
AACTE doesn’t have a replacement for Robinson lined up, but Bray said that, once on board, the new president will continue the work of improving the teacher workforce, increasing its numbers in the face of declining enrollment at schools of education nationwide, as well as diversifying the profession.
High on the list of AACTE’s priorities will be to provide support for its member institutions as they work to apply the new teacher-prep rules and the federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds Associates will conduct the search for Robinson’s successor.
Image: Sharon Robinson
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.