Improving Teachers with Assistance from Business

By Butler, Kevin | District Administration, May 2010 | Go to article overview

Improving Teachers with Assistance from Business


Butler, Kevin, District Administration


PITTSBURGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS IS focused on reforming its teacher recruitment, evaluation and training systems, along with better coordinating its student services. In both goals, the district is being helped by elements of the business community, including a billionaire philanthropist and some MBA students.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last year awarded the district a $40 million grant to support the Empowering Effective Teachers initiative. Developed collaboratively by PPS and its teachers union, the plan aims to revolutionize the way the district hires, evaluates and trains its teaching force.

Teacher Academy

A cornerstone of the plan is the proposed Teacher Academy, which will provide a 13-month induction and residency program to novice teachers in core content areas like math, English-language arts, science and special education.

The Academy will arrange the novice teachers into groups, each of which will be matched up with an experienced teacher. The groups of novice teachers will work in the same classroom alongside an experienced teacher for the first eight months of the program. At the end, teachers who don't meet performance standards will not be hired. Those teachers who pass muster will move on and spend about five months in a classroom.

The Teacher Academy, which the district hopes to be up and running in the 2011-2012 school year, also will benefit experienced teachers by providing them with professional development opportunities, says Jerri Lippert, the district's chief academic officer. The Academy "touches all teachers," she says. "It's the way we are going to bring new teachers to the district as well as provide customized professional development for all of our experienced teachers."

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As part of its work to make teacher evaluation more research-based, the district and its teachers' union will be working with Mathematica Policy Research, a research company, to develop a measurement of student learning to use in the evaluation process, a statistic that the district calls a "Value-Added Measure. …

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