|A University dedicated to the preparation of first-rate teachers|
The generous gift from the Carnegie Corporation, along with the Annenberg and Ford foundations, offers us unmatched opportunities and a remarkable challenge. Teachers for a New Era asks us not merely to unite the University’s best minds from the College of Arts & Sciences and the Curry School of Education, but to demonstrate that our vision of excellent teacher preparation not only educates outstanding K-12 teachers, but that our program also improves the learning of those teachers’ pupils. We must be able to show that we are training measurably better teachers who make a measurably positive impact on their students’ learning.
As a biologist, I know very plainly what I’d like to do. I’d like to select a random group of teachers trained elsewhere and compare them to a random group of teachers educated at UVA, then have them each teach random sets of pupils, then test the pupils to see which pupils performed better, and in what ways. Then we’d have a real metric, a real measure.
But that’s not going to happen. We won’t ever get that random set of pupils; in fact, our teachers will go out and teach in astonishingly varied settings, and the thing we’ll be trying to measure will always be in constant flux.
So our challenge—to develop reliable measures, and to make them the backbone of our future teachers’ preparation, in both colleges—is immense. But so is what is at stake. We are a research university but we are also a public university, and we are a university with a long historical mission to model excellent educational practice. And we are undertaking our work at a time when there are grave doubts about the quality—and equality—of education that is available to American children.
We know we have a first-rate school of education, and we know we have a variety of scholars in Arts & Sciences with longstanding experience and expertise in working with K-12 teachers. We know, most of all, that we have first-rate students. But we need to bring these strands together and make a compelling case that what we are doing here is the right thing, that we are producing the best possible teachers for this generation of pupils.
Our work will not have a hope of being successful without another set of key players: two of our local school divisions who have agreed to work as partners with us in this ambitious undertaking. From the beginning of our proposal-writing process, we have benefited enormously from the contributions of administrators from the Albemarle County and Charlottesville City schools. They, and the fellow teachers and principals with whom they work, are the ones who are on the front line in regard to all the issues we will consider under TNE at UVA. They are truly “Expert Educators,” as we have named the advisory group whose membership will include a number of the school divisions’ most impressive figures and which will shape the TNE process significantly. One of the best tests of what we accomplish is whether we both learn from them and demonstrate to them what “teachers for a new era” should know, and what such teachers should be able to do.
Elsewhere on this site you’ll find described a number of our efforts, attempts at improving the way we train teachers, the way we measure the outcomes of their training, the way we highlight teaching throughout our curriculum, the way the University as a whole thinks of teacher preparation. One central component of these tasks is a faculty seminar on “Evidence and Education,” which has brought together some of our best scholars from the two colleges to consider questions of educational assessment. I am hosting and leading that seminar, and I expect to learn a great deal in the process. I also mean by that participation to express my commitment—not just as an administrator, but as a scholar—to the TNE endeavors at UVA.
I know that we would not have been selected to participate in Teachers for a New Era if we weren’t already doing some things very well, and if we weren’t already committed to the preparation of teachers. But in the coming years we will become greater still—wiser, more practiced, more self-aware. I hope you’ll check this web site regularly, both to see how we’re doing and to share with us what you think we ought to be doing.