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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Our Policy Recommendations:
Getting Real and Getting Smart: A Report from the National Teacher Policy Institute

What Matters Most-Improving Student Achievement | Getting Real and Getting Smart: A Report from the National Teacher Policy Institute | Literacy

Strengthening Teacher Education

1) Student teachers need high-quality teacher education programs defined by strong partnerships between universities and public schools. This will require:

  • Identifying cooperating teachers and university-based supervisors through a more rigorous and selective process.

  • Matching student teachers with cooperating classroom teachers in advance of placement so that student teachers can observe the cooperating teachers and interact with students.

  • Providing support and apportioning time for the successful mentoring of student teachers by cooperating classroom teachers.


2) Serving as a cooperating classroom teacher should be a rung on a career ladder and command designation as adjunct university faculty, with compensation and support, so that master teachers do not have to leave the classroom to move up in their profession.

3) In order to ensure that new teachers are prepared to meet the challenges of today's classrooms:

  • Teacher preparation programs must meet national standards, such as those required by NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education), and provide curriculum that prepares new teachers to meet standards, such as those developed by INTASC (Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium), as a condition of state accreditation. Practicing classroom teachers must be included on committees that establish criteria and design assessments for meeting the standards for state accreditation.

  • Student teachers need to learn from university faculty who have recently spent substantial time researching or teaching in public schools. Universities should engage practicing and retired master teachers to work collaboratively with university faculty to better integrate the educational practices and realities of today's classrooms with theories and new methodologies emerging from the university.

  • Funding and support are needed for the development of new school-based models of teacher education to better integrate the theory and practice of teaching. These models - developed in collaboration with universities - should require prospective teachers to spend extended time - one to two years - apprenticing in schools.

Providing New Teacher Support

1) For all new teachers to practice their craft under conditions that are conducive to growth and long-term commitment to the profession, every school system should have in place a new teacher induction program. These programs should:

  • Be led by a cadre of site-based, trained mentors - including retired master teachers.

  • Utilize peer coaching and non-evaluative mentor assessment. 

  • Support new teachers in focusing on long-term career goals, professional development, and the importance of professional networks and organizations.

  • Help new teachers develop skills to deal effectively with the demanding challenges of the teaching workplace.

  • Provide timely and comprehensive written material that informs new teachers about district and school norms for teacher performance and conduct. 

2) Every new teacher should have the opportunity to become the protégé of a skilled and qualified mentor, ideally for the first three years of teaching. To ensure the success of the mentor-new teacher relationship, mentor teachers require:

  • Release time or reduced class loads to establish dedicated in-school time for mentoring. 

  • Appropriate compensation commensurate with additional responsibilities that extend beyond the school day.

3) During the first three years of teaching, new teachers need time to develop, hone, and expand their repertoire of teaching skills. To accomplish this, new teachers need:

  • Opportunities for collaboration and observation of colleagues during the school day.

  • Minimal extracurricular responsibilities.

  • Reduced class load.

  • An assigned classroom.


Enabling High-Quality Ongoing Professional Development
For all teachers to have the opportunity to engage in high-quality ongoing professional development, we need to:

  • Provide sufficient funding to support professional development that offers a variety of models to meet standards.

  • Ensure that a significant portion of professional development funds goes directly to schools so that they can develop programs relevant to the needs of their own learning communities.

  • Structure time during the school day for ongoing professional development activities and for teachers to reflect collaboratively on their practice.

  • Encourage, facilitate, and support financially the process of certification for all teachers.

  • Require teachers to spend a set number of professional hours improving classroom instruction and engaging in a process of self-assessment as a condition of relicensure.


Providing Incentives to Engage Teachers in High-Quality Ongoing Professional Development
Incentives are needed to encourage and support teachers as they take the first steps towards active participation in high-quality ongoing professional development activities. Incentives might include: 

  • Funding to support the development of alternative approaches to scheduling.

  • Salary increments for demonstrated growth activities, e.g. network participation, teaming, action research, program and curriculum development, portfolio creation, peer coaching, mentoring, leadership roles, and certification.

  • Access to university libraries, technology facilities, and courses without having to enter into degree programs.


Supporting Teacher Networks
As society becomes increasingly complex and as information grows at an astounding rate, the need for educational networks that can mediate and initiate change cannot be underestimated. For the development of professional networks, districts must provide:

  • Ongoing funding to support staffing, meeting and office space.

  • Access to communication technologies.

  • Time during the school day for network activities to become an integral part of school operations.

  • Recognition of participation in teacher networks as an option for professional growth.


Democratizing our Schools
In order to reclaim the public nature of schools, we must provide schools with the autonomy to select their own systems of governance. There must be a significant role for teachers in budgeting, hiring, and governance decisions. 

We must provide the ways and means for teacher leaders to join in the creation of smaller, student-centered school communities built around a shared vision of teaching and learning. These schools would be encouraged to develop mechanisms to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to formulate visions and strategies for improvement. This would help to set schools on a path of continuous self-improvement in the service of student achievement and academic excellence

We must enable teachers to develop site-specific accountability systems that are meaningful and interpretable. These accountability systems would include a blend of qualitative data, e.g. portfolios, performance-based assessments, narrative reports, and quantitative data, e.g. standardized test scores, academic grades, attendance -- data to assess student and school performance.

To support school reform and schoolwide accountability, it is imperative that we provide the means for teachers to engage in professional growth activities that support the development of leadership skills and lead to the development of site-based faculty evaluation systems based on teacher-developed standards.

To support the implementation of effective practices that increase school achievement, all policymaking bodies, such as state commissions, district task forces, advisory boards, and school committees, must include teachers in significant leadership roles.

Because teacher leaders are ultimately accountable to the public for the performance of their students, the public needs to gain a more comprehensive picture of the nature and reality of public schools. Therefore, all local and state board members, members of the state accreditation committees, district office staff, elected officials, and other community members should be required to spend structured time in elementary and secondary school classrooms.

The only current means of advancement for a teacher leader is to pursue a career in administration. We need to redesign the career ladder in education to encourage our best teachers to remain in the classroom.


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