Breaking Ranks II

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Using the principals of high school reform contained in “Breaking Ranks II” (a product of NASP) and other sources, develop a proposed NEA Position Statement on High School Reform.
In 2006, the PSP Committee was asked to look at what was being done concerning high school reform; following that charge, they met with the NEA staff committee that was working on this subject. The PSP Committee did not believe that the NEA should form an NEA committee to develop our plan for the high school, but instead felt that the NEA and/or state affiliates should have a major presence at the table of groups looking at this subject. As part of the recommendations from that report, the PSP Committee suggested that: the PSP Committee should be charged with the continual monitoring of high school improvement issues, provide advice and counsel into the work of the NEA staff group on high school improvement, and that the NEA should publicly support the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ recommendations contained in “Breaking Ranks II”.
For 2007, the PSP Committee was asked to develop a proposed NEA Position Statement on High School Reform using principles contained in “Breaking Ranks II” and other sources.
The PSP Committee then discussed whether the traditional high school, in its present form, is adequate to help all students acquire the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to become a successful and engaged member of society. The comprehensive high school prevalent in today’s secondary schools was fashioned more than a century ago. It remains basically unchanged.  The traditional high school was designed to sort thousands of students into tracks that prepare them for employment in the nation’s industrial economy.  Today’s students are ill-served with 20th century skills for use in a rapidly changing technological society.  Today’s high schools must be organized and managed with an unwavering focus on the needs of students in the modern world. Rote memorization and passive engagement must yield to active learning, abstract reasoning, problem solving, collaboration, and communication.
For the NEA, strengthening the nation’s high schools is a part of the NEA’s Positive Agenda, guaranteeing every student the right to a great public school. The NEA Agenda advocates for an educational system for all students that rewards success, improves student learning, closes achievement gaps, respects diversity, endorses a challenging curriculum, and is staffed by highly-qualified, caring teachers. Thus to prepare students for the technologically advanced and rapidly changing society and economy of the 21st century, significant structural and cultural changes to the institution will be necessary.  Tinkering at the edges of the education system will no longer suffice. 
In 2004, the PSP Committee issued its report on Student Achievement and the Achievement Gap. In that report the Committee was guided by two values: excellence and equity. “Excellence” was defined as students’ learning higher level skills and knowledge necessary to succeed, whether in postsecondary education, in the workplace, or in a democratic society. “Equity” referred to the same high levels of learning being acquired by each student in the classroom. The Committee believes that any reform of the high school must be guided by those key concepts (reference to the PSP 2004 report).

The current PSP committee determined the overarching purpose of high school is to empower every student to become a critical, creative, caring human being who thrives in a democratic society and a diversely changing world. The focus of the new 21st century high school has to be on the student as an active participant in his or her own learning with expectations of excellence. In this environment, students will master the necessary 21st century skills, accomplish core knowledge and experience flexible curricula attached to real-world opportunities for learning. All students will graduate prepared for work or school with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to succeed in both. This learner-centered environment, will equip students ---emotionally, mentally, and physically ---to become an economically and self-sufficient citizen. Students will be encouraged to make informed and responsible choices, and contribute both to the community and society at large.

In order to achieve this purpose, the redesigned high school has to be organized to provide a safe, nurturing atmosphere where divergent ideas can be explored. This redesigned high school provides individual support, establishes bridges with the community, and helps the student to develop a sense of social and civic responsibility. This transforming institution utilizes appropriate and emerging technology, enables the growth of deep conceptual understanding, and engages teachers in continuous learning. It must maintain a fair, equitable, and democratic environment, incorporating these as a means to promote an appreciation of diversity. While the student must be provided the necessary technical and cognitive curricula, students must be exposed to the arts as enriching activities. From the inclusion of the humanities, students will experience both the depth and the joy of learning, have their curiosity encouraged, and thereby provide a foundation for continuous and lifelong learning.
Viewed in this light, it is perhaps more appropriate to conceive of the new high school as the “Transitional Learning Center”(TLC) in the Pre- K-12 journey of learning.
The redesigned TLC’s are dynamic, multidimensional environments that focus on the growth and development of students. The Transitional Learning Centers provide the foundation for organizational and cultural change. They are supported with a clearly defined vision, mission, goal(s), and high expectations. Programs in these 21st century schools engage all students more deeply in their learning; they broaden the learning environment; and they make authentic connections between the curriculum and the community.
Across the nation, pioneering sites are embracing systemic change to achieve sustainable high school redesign. Innovative models, frameworks, and strategies are being implemented every day in America’s classrooms. Reports from pilot sites consistently reference the importance of incorporating key concepts to advance their agendas for change. The core elements for this redesign include: personalized learning environments, rigorous curricula with real-world focus enriched by arts and the humanities, broad-ranging assessment integrated with instruction, collaborative community at the site level, professional development integral to all elements, and adequate, available resources to support teaching and learning.
Transforming high schools is a slow process -- at best incremental – and replete with successes and setbacks. In the context of today’s diminishing resources, escalating expectations for student learning, and turbulent political environments, the need for high school redesign is an imperative.

Review the available data that defines who is currently in America’s classrooms including the identification of essential knowledge, skills and support teachers need to be successful and recommend strategies for the Association to ensure a caring, competent, and qualified teacher in every classroom.

The 2006 Professional Standards and Practice Committee’s (PSP) report which was approved by the Representative Assembly contained, as a centerpiece, the NEA Principles of Professional Practice (PPP). The PPP are not standards but rather principles designed to guide “teachers and partners in developing, revising, or assessing teacher preparation programs, teacher licensure standards, evaluation and assessment programs, and other state, local, or national efforts to measure teacher quality.” Each Principle of Professional Practice is of equal importance in quality teaching. Additionally, the PPP recognize that teachers enter the profession with different skill levels for each Principle of Professional Practice and thus the PPP serve as models for teachers and teacher communities to continuously improve their practice during their professional career. The charge to the PSP committee for 2007 was to continue to examine and make recommendations to ensure a caring, competent, and qualified teacher in every classroom.

In reviewing the work that it did during 2006, the PSP Committee came to believe that amid the growing discourse and debate about teacher licensure, the PPP could not stand alone as policy guidance to assess quality preparation and credentialing processes. The Committee also concluded that there are two critically important assumptions about the teacher licensure process. First, the development of teacher licensure processes are, and must remain, the domain of states to develop and must include the engagement and leadership of teachers and teacher associations. Second, that evaluating candidates for initial and/or professional state license must be separate and distinct from the process of evaluating teachers for employment decisions at the district level.
As the next step in this process the PSP Committee developed the Pipelines to Quality Teaching (see enclosed chart). The Pipelines to Quality Teaching (PQT) and the Principles of Professional Practice (PPP) together explain NEA’s vision for preparing, credentialing and providing life long professional growth to teachers to help in meeting the educational demands of America’s public schools. The PSP reviewed existing NEA Resolutions and determined that the PQT is consistent with NEA policy and practice.
The PSP recognizes that there are – and should be – multiple pathways for entrance into the teaching profession and for attaining full licensure. These pathways should provide options so that individual candidates may select the one that best provides them a pathway to full licensure. None should be considered superior or inferior to the other.
The Pipelines to Quality Teaching outlines the components that must be present in each pathway to ensure that every teacher candidate receives adequate support and training and meets high standards for teacher skill, knowledge and ability. By overlying these key components with quality content based on the Principles of Professional Practice, universities, schools districts, and state licensing agencies can help ensure that preparation and licensure programs are producing the quality teacher candidates our schools need and deserve. The NEA believes that each pipeline must be equal in rigor and that every teacher candidate must meet identical standards and measures in order to receive a professional teaching license in a given state. Those same standards and measures should align with NEA’s Principles of Professional Practice to ensure that processes for teacher licensure adequately address the skills, knowledge, and dispositions needed for effective teaching.
Using the lens of the PPP and PQT, policymakers can move away from the misguided debates about “Traditional vs. Alternative” routes and focus on more substantive issues of what new teachers should know and be able to do and how preparation and credentialing systems can best support the development of that knowledge and skill. To do this, the Pipelines identify three distinct pathways for teacher preparation and licensure: 1) the University-Based Blended Pipeline; 2) the University-Based Five-Year Pipeline; and 3) the Post-Baccalaureate Alternative Pipeline (sometimes referred to as an intern program). While each pipeline utilizes different strategies in different sequential order, they all share the same core elements:

  • Every candidate must obtain a bachelor’s degree that includes a liberal arts curriculum that ensures adequate basic skills in reading, writing, and computation.

  • Every candidate must have preparation in and demonstration of subject matter knowledge in core teaching area and have an academic major in that same teaching area;

  • Every candidate must have preparation in and demonstration of professional and pedagogical skills, knowledge, and ability;

  • Every candidate must participate in supervised clinical practice via an internship, student teaching, and/or mentoring program;

  • Every candidate must participate in a new teacher induction program that includes mentoring from a qualified teacher in addition to support and/or mentoring from university faculty, school administrators, and new teacher peers.

  • A candidate receives a full professional license only after demonstrating effective classroom practice as a teacher-of-record.

The PQT serves to guide in the preparation and initial licensure of new teachers. The PSP recognizes that the professional license is only one step along to continuum of teacher development. Quality teaching requires on-going growth, knowledge, and skill development. The PPP are ideals for which teachers strive and can continuously improve throughout their career. As such, meaningful professional development, licensure renewals, continuing education, and even voluntary National Board Certification can be essential components in the teacher quality continuum.

The Committee concludes that the development of the Pipelines to Quality Teaching in partnership with the Principles of Professional Practice serve as the foundation for supporting quality teacher licensing systems. To better support teachers entering the profession there is more substantive and valuable work still to be done, particularly in the area of teacher assessment and evaluation. To address this, the Committee makes the two recommendations outlined at the end of this report.

Examine the characteristics of students attending, completing, and not completing high school and make recommendations for public policy at the state and federal levels.
The committee deferred this charge to the cross-departmental group working on NEA’s Dropout Initiative. The PSP committee chair appointed two members of the committee to participate on the advisory group to this work team. The NEA’s 12-Step Plan to Reduce School Dropouts was released in September 2006.
Develop a monitoring system of high school reform efforts and provide advice and counsel to the NEA staff group on high school improvement.
This charge was integrated into the work developing the first charge. Members from the NEA staff group on high school improvement assisted in the drafting of the proposed High School Reform position statement.
High School Recommendations
That the PSP Committee receive a report at each of its next two meetings from the staff groups addressing both the high school redesign work as well as the work on dropouts.
Teacher Quality Recommendations
The Resolutions Committee review all resolutions dealing with credentialing and standards of teaching for potential consolidation, change, or addition in order to seek alignment with the Principles of Professional Practice and Pipelines to Quality Teaching.
The Pipelines and Principles be referred to Teacher Quality, or other appropriate NEA department, to create a more comprehensive report outlining the development of the Principles through the Pipelines and through the professional teaching career.

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