Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The National Network for Educational Renewal

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The National Network for Educational Renewal

Article excerpt

The Agenda of the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) focuses on renewing the initial preparation programs for professional service in schools and simultaneously focuses on renewing schools. "Simultaneously" is redundant, because the renewal of teacher education requires the availability of schools that are in the process of renewing. Schools that are renewing are as indispensable to good teacher education as teaching hospitals are to good medical education. In each teacher education program there must be enough partner schools to accommodate each successive cohort of apprentice teachers.

Since there are currently not enough of these exemplary schools around, each teacher-preparation setting must cultivate schools that have the potential for renewal. The members of the NNER are committed to this delicate process of cultivation and to connecting all the essential components of a healthy teacher education enterprise: the partner schools (frequently referred to as clinical or professional development schools); the subject specializations of the university arts and sciences departments; and that part of the professional preparation of teachers that is commonly provided by schools, colleges, or departments of education. The renewal of any one of these three cultures is complex and difficult. The NNER agenda calls for blending the renewal of all three in pursuit of a common mission. I have described elsewhere in considerable detail the concept of a new setting - a center of pedagogy - as the appropriate institutional design for such a task.[1]

During the past hundred years or so of focusing on school reform, very little attention has been paid to the role of reforming teacher education. Similarly, little attention has been paid to the schools - let alone to school reform - in the much fewer proposals for the reform of teacher education. This chronic lack of connection between the demands that schools place on teachers and the preparation that teachers receive led Seymour Sarason and his colleagues to label teacher education an unstudied problem.[2]

If schools are to be good, the general and professional education of those who teach in them must also be good. If teacher education is to be good, the schools in which future teachers receive a significant part of their preparation must also be good. The NNER seeks to engender and sustain the process of simultaneous renewal.

"Renewal" is not the same thing as "reform" or "restructuring." The latter terms connote replacement and intervention. Renewal connotes evolution to healthier levels of functioning. Reform and restructuring suggest acting on a displeasing or somehow inadequate object. Renewal suggests that object and subject are one; an entity renews for its own sake, not at the behest of others. This does not eliminate the need to shed dysfunctional baggage, nor does it ignore the importance of a supporting context or the power of inspiration from without. There is probably no such thing as pure self-renewal. Whoever says "I did it all by myself" is an egotistical fool.

The concept of renewal also includes a sense of a guiding ideal, of a mission that motivates and energizes. It may come from without, but it must then be internalized so as to seem virtually self-generated. The renewal agenda adopted may come from without, but it must be similarly internalized. The more the mission and its accompanying agenda invite interpretation and reinterpretation, the greater the motivation to keep striving. In the absence of an agenda that continues to motivate and satisfy, the mission fades, and renewal comes to a halt. External condemnations or rewards have little success in getting the process going again.

The theories and models of renewal that drive the NNER are quite different from the reform models that have typically guided school reform. I will compare them later. First, we need to take a look at the genesis and structure of the NNER, the vehicle that carries this nationwide initiative for the simultaneous renewal of schooling and the education of educators. …

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