Teaching Profession Opinion

A High-Quality Teaching Force

By Heather Singmaster — April 05, 2013 3 min read
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Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University examined the strategies used to develop and support high-quality teaching in three cities from three continents. The cities—Melbourne, Singapore, and Toronto—have developed a number of productive policies and practices that aim to create strong teaching and school leadership workforces in very different contexts. Heather Singmaster reports.

What are some of the strengths of these systems?

Melbourne has established professional standards for teacher registration (known as certification or licensure in the United States) and accreditation of preparation programs, and has recently increased the incoming supply of teachers with a range of service scholarships and incentives for entry. The Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has launched a variety of partnerships with universities to transform preparation—in particular to create much stronger clinical preparation in collaboration with partnership schools. It has also invested in leadership development for teacher leaders and prospective principals, with a focus on whole school improvement.

The province of Ontario also instituted a comprehensive induction program for new teachers that includes professional development and appraisal, as well as an appraisal program for all teachers that focuses on development and growth based on the OCT standards. The Toronto District School Board has added other elements to the induction requirements to create a strong entry system for new teachers. Professional learning opportunities are both individual and collective, and are tied to research-based strategies for school improvement. These policies are intended to complement the strong initial preparation that all teachers receive, and they have served to reverse an exodus from the teaching profession.

Singapore augments its strong initial preparation and induction with a highly developed performance management system that spells out the knowledge, skills, and attitudes expected at each stage of a teacher’s career and, based on careful evaluation and intensive supports, provides a series of career tracks that teachers can pursue. This enables teachers to become mentor teachers, curriculum specialists, or principals, thereby developing talent in every component of the education system.

The systems in all three jurisdictions are continually being refined as needs in various areas emerge.

What can we learn from these systems?

Leaders in Melbourne/Victoria, Singapore, and Toronto/Ontario all believe that getting the right people into teaching and preparing them well is a critical piece in teacher development. All of these systems have worked to strengthen their capacity to recruit strong teachers.

Once selected, applicants for teaching in each jurisdiction go through preparation programs that are guided by professional teaching standards and that are increasingly tied to practice in the schools. Each of the three jurisdictions has recently adopted standards that describe the knowledge and skills that teachers programs are expected to impart and that candidates are expected to acquire.

When new teachers enter the profession, they experience significant induction supports. In Singapore, beginning teachers receive two years of coaching from expert senior teachers who are trained by the National Institute of Education (NIE) as mentors and are given released time to help beginners learn their craft. In Ontario, a recently enacted New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) provides a range of supports, including orientation, mentoring, and professional development focused on key areas of need identified by new teachers, including classroom management, communication with parents, assessment and evaluation, and work with special-needs students. In Victoria, the Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Victoria Institute on Teaching collaborate to support early career mentoring.

In addition to providing strong initial preparation for teachers and creating working conditions that encourage retention, each of these jurisdictions provides opportunities and support for teachers to develop their knowledge and skills, to improve their practice, and to grow as professionals.

One of the most significant aspects of the educator development systems in Melbourne/Victoria, Toronto/Ontario, and Singapore is their investment in leadership development and support. These systems recognize that high-quality leadership strengthens teaching by providing skillful guidance and creating a school vision that teachers share. There are career-ladder programs help to create a strong profession.

Read the full report.

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The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.