Research shows that school contexts influence teachers’ career decisions and their effectiveness. From the mid-nineteen-seventies to the present, researchers have examined how the organizational contexts of schools support and constrain teachers and teaching. Based on extensive observations and interviews as well as large-scale surveys, a robust body of evidence challenges the belief that teachers’ career decisions and success are mainly related to the students they teach rather than the conditions under which they work.
We know, for example, that teachers who work in supportive schools stay longer and improve faster than teachers in less supportive schools. In supportive schools teachers can count on regular opportunities to collaborate with colleagues, receive feedback and instructional guidance from administrators, and experience an orderly school environment. This is especially true for beginning teachers who leave teaching at alarmingly high rates, often before they have a chance to grow into effective teachers. We know that principals play a critical role in creating these conditions.
So how do Jewish day schools stack up? Continue reading
Teacher retention and effectiveness stem from a clear vision of good teaching, strong alignment between coursework and field experiences, a focus on subject matter preparation, and a year-long internship. That view is supported by a new report from the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, which finds that graduates of the DeLeT (Day School Leadership Through Teaching) Program at Brandeis University and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion feel well prepared for their responsibilities as day school teachers.
The report comes from the Longitudinal Survey of Day School Teachers, which has been tracking the careers of DeLeT alumni since 2007. Previous reports described graduates’ backgrounds and views of day school teaching, the factors influencing their decisions over time to stay in teaching or leave the classroom, and the opportunities and challenges they face in their schools.
This guest post is by Susan Kardos, Senior Director of Strategy and Education Planning at The AVI CHAI Foundation and a research associate at the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University. She was the Mandel Center’s first post-doctoral fellow.
This essay is drawn in part from a summary of the work of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers presented by Susan Moore Johnson and her research team at Harvard in May, and in part from a presentation given during a session called “Teachers as Learners: a Discussion Honoring the Contributions of Sharon Feiman-Nemser to Jewish Education,” at the Network for Research in Jewish Education conference in June. The author participated in both.
A little more than fifteen years ago, as a doctoral student at Harvard, I came to know Sharon Feiman-Nemser, first, as a peppering of citations. I got to know her better when I was charged with creating an annotated bibliography of sources related to my interest in new teachers in public schools. It was then I read everything—article after article, chapter after chapter, book after book—and wrote summaries that would become the basis for the literature review in my thesis. Sharon’s work about teacher preparation and learning to teach was an early foundational reference for the work of The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, a Harvard-based research project addressing critical questions about the future of the nation’s public school teaching force. Sharon’s work featured especially prominently in my contributions to the project, which focused specifically on the kinds of professional cultures new teachers’ experience in their schools, especially related to collegial support, mentoring, and induction—all Feiman-Nemser specialties.
At the same time, and a world away from my thesis work, I was pursuing a line of research related to underground schools in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust and feeling a stronger and stronger pull toward building a professional home in the world of Jewish education. Imagine my surprise to find that one of my intellectual heroes was not only looking for a post-doctoral research fellow locally, at Brandeis, but was herself crossing the border to make her professional home in the world of Jewish education.
Teaching is complex work, and learning to do it well takes time. Even the most rigorously-prepared new teacher encounters a steep learning curve on the job. The first several years of full-time classroom teaching are a time of intense learning, during which teachers form the teaching habits and professional dispositions that will stay with them through their careers. Continue reading
Today’s guest post is by Shari Weinberger, curriculum coordinator at Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island. After attending the Mandel Center’s “community conversation” last fall on preparing and retaining excellent teachers for Jewish day schools, she was inspired to try some research in her own school. Here is her account of how that inquiry is helping make the school even more supportive of professional growth. Could such an inquiry strengthen similar efforts in the school you know best?
As the new Curriculum Coordinator at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island (JCDSRI), I facilitate many teacher meetings, coach new teachers, and provide support and guidance to our entire teaching staff. I have a very clear vision of the school culture we are trying to create, but after attending the Mandel Center event last November and learning about the DeLeT Longitudinal Survey, I decided that administering a similar survey to our staff would provide important information to help me move forward.