Training New Teachers to Succeed in Urban Schools

Training New Teachers to Succeed in Urban Schools

For students to receive an excellent education, nothing is more important than the quality of their teachers.

Yet a study released this year by Temple University researchers revealed 72% of new Philadelphia teachers surveyed felt unprepared to work in an urban classroom.

This evidence shows it’s time to retool the way new teachers are trained.

Survey respondents who had completed student teaching in Philadelphia schools generally had not experienced the most challenging, high-poverty, low-performing schools in which many of them were employed in their first year of teaching.

Becoming an excellent teacher in any setting requires years of practice and support from experienced peers, but there are ways in which teacher preparation programs can lay the groundwork for greater teacher longevity and success in a city like Philadelphia. The effort requires a close and collaborative partnership between the colleges where teachers are trained and the school districts or charter schools where they most often teach in the early years of their careers.

The Temple University study found several concrete ways to improve teachers’ readiness to succeed in low-achieving schools:

  • Reduce “reality shock.” New teachers need more exposure to the reality of insufficiently resourced and often low achieving school settings.
  • Focus on specific school contexts. New teachers want more knowledge of the students that they are going to teach, the neighborhoods where they are going to work, and strategies to engage and motivate their students.
  • Replace isolation with a sense of community. New teachers value relationships with mentors in their schools and from their preparation programs.
  • Create a continuum of teacher learning. New teachers need a system to support their ongoing learning as they gain classroom experience.

 

The many partners in Pennsylvania’s system of teacher preparation are beginning to explore ways to strengthen how teachers are prepared for their careers and supported throughout their early years in schools.

The state is joining colleges of education and school districts in focusing on this issue. Governor Wolf recently announced a new teaching fellowship program to recruit and prepare more professionals to teach in Pennsylvania schools. The program emphasizes the importance of mentoring and aims to prepare new teachers to be effective in the classrooms that will need them most – often in schools where teacher turnover is high or resources are scarce.

These classrooms, many of which are in large urban districts like Philadelphia, deserve teachers who are equipped with the training, contextual understanding, and supports needed to cultivate a teaching practice that helps all of our children to be lifelong learners.


Photo by Saquoia Freeman, School District of Philadelphia