The tremendous difficulties facing the teaching profession are especially acute in New York City public schools. It is not coincidental that the rate of attrition among teachers during their first five years of service is higher tha 40%. Many of those who leave the City go to surrounding suburban areas; others leave the profession entirely. They leave a school system that, in large measure, remains staffed with beginning teachers who are not yet certified (State of New York, 1993).
The Effective Teaching Program, organized and administered by the New York City United Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers Association, is a unique program that provides graduate-level training to members of the United Federation of Teachers in all curriculum areas, as well a classroom strategies and management techniques. The program began in 1979 with single course. By September 1993, eight courses were offered, including some tailored to special-education teachers.
The courses are taught by experienced New York City teachers who have been prepared by special training. Most courses run for twelve weeks; the maximum class size is twenty-four. Completion of each course earns three credits from a cooperating university. Each course costs $320.
Research suggests that effective professional development courses should deal with well-written, practical lesson plans, hands-on leadership, and student involvement (Lieberman, 1991). In the Effective Teaching Program, assessment of the students' needs, along with analyses of course content, are major sources used in defining course objectives. The survey reported here was undertaken to determine whether or not teachers who had completed specific courses in the Effective Teaching Program felt that the courses had increased their knowledge or teaching skills.
The subjects were teachers of general and special education at the elementary, junior high, and high school level in the New York City school system who had completed courses in the Effective Teaching Program. They had from one to ten years of teaching experience.
A questionnaire was distributed at the last session of every class. This questionnaire was based on the Likert five-point scale, ranging from poor to excellent, in which subjects respond to each item in terms of their degree of agreement or disagreement with it. Because this type of questionnaire measures only the favorableness of subjects' attitudes, space was provided for comments, which were also used in assessing opinions. Based on the literature and using the Interactive Model of Staff Development (Lieherman & Miller, 1991), the item in the questionnaire were chosen for their relevance to the specific guidelines and objectives of the Effective Teaching Program. In addition, each subject responded to a nine-question telephone interview.
On the five-point scale used, students' ratings of the courses they took were generally high, with a mean rating of 4.60 for all courses taken together. Students' subjective comments were consistent with their high rating of courses Responses were also evaluated in relation to four specific categories:
Two questions directly elicited respondents' opinions about the quality of teaching. The mean response to one question, "Was sufficient guidance given to promote learning?" was 4.90 the mean response to the other question, "Was the instructor positive and enthusiastic?" was 4.49. Teachers taking the courses responded positively to the intrinsically practical approach of their instructors, seeing it as an advantage that they were not only experienced, but were currently teaching within the City school system. Moreover, students felt that the instructors were well-prepared and knowledgeable. They reported that instructors encourage discussion and dialogue, and used motivational activities along with positive reinforcement. …