Institute Forum

The Role of Teacher Training in Education Reform May 4, 2010

Forum: Enhance Teaching to Raise Student Achievement

“Nothing matters more than the quality of a student’s teacher.”

For more:

Audio (Full)
Video: Kenneth R. Howey
Video: John B. King Jr.
Video: Doug Lemov
Video: Question-and-Answer session

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The words were John B. King Jr.’s, but could have been spoken by any of the participants in a public policy forum on The Role of Teacher Training in Education Reform, held at the Rockefeller Institute on May 4. King, senior deputy commissioner for P-12 education at the New York State Education Department, was joined by Doug Lemov of the charter school system True North Public Schools and Institute Senior Fellow Kenneth R. Howey in the discussion. All talked about the importance of improving teacher performance as a way to increase student achievement.

King and Lemov promoted similar approaches to improving teacher preparation by finding exceptional teachers, learning what they do right and helping others emulate their techniques. Lemov has spent a dozen years observing teachers with great track records to discover their trade secrets. He has recently published his findings in a book, Teach Like A Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College, which was the subject of a March 7 New York Times Magazine article.

Lemov shared some of the techniques detailed in his book with the forum, where he stressed that practical teacher preparation has too often been “an afterthought,” following classroom instruction on research and theory. He suggested that schools need to make a cultural shift toward paying attention to the good teachers — both to help newer teachers replicate their practices, and to give some positive feedback to the high performers, who otherwise may be ignored. Continuing professional development of teachers is also essential, he said, as retaining teachers is tougher than attracting them.

“You have to build a culture of practice, and make it safe for teachers to practice,” Lemov said.

King also talked about creating a cultural shift within the state Education Department. He discussed the Regents’ and Education Commissioner David Steiner’s emphasis on curriculum development, and said more detailed directives from the state on course content should dictate how current teachers are trained to present that curriculum. Teachers should be evaluated on student performance — and interventions ranging from mentoring to dismissal taken when they are consistently underperforming; principals should be evaluated on teacher performance, he said.

Howey began the discussion by outlining several major efforts to improve teacher preparation around the country, including a community effort to improve schools in Cincinnati that brings together educators, nonprofit organizations, philanthropies, elected officials and the business community. Howey is engaged in forthcoming studies that will lay out a vision for providing teachers with enriched clinical experience as part of their preparation, and identifying the characteristics underlying successful partnerships for advancing teacher and school performance.



The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York, conducts fiscal and programmatic research on American state and local governments. It works closely with federal, state, and local government agencies nationally and in New York, and draws on the State University’s rich intellectual resources and on networks of public policy academic experts throughout the country.