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Bruno: Surprises In New Student Teacher Placement Study

ImagesAn important new study in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis provides some very strong evidence that student teachers who are trained in easier-to-staff schools are more effective and have better retention rates regardless of where they are eventually hired.

The authors emphasize that to date the question of where student teachers should be placed has actually been very controversial, with many educators criticizing "inauthentic" placements as unlikely to adequately prepare future teachers. Those criticisms now appear misguided, even if the specific advantages of "easier" student teaching placements remain unclear.

For my part, I tend to think that heavily scaffolded instruction in simpler contexts is best for my own students and I suspect that a similar sort of logic should apply to teachers-in-training. The skills required to effectively teach high-needs populations are sufficiently diverse and complex that we should be skeptical they are best mastered simultaneously rather than sequentially.

More speculatively, my own experience alternating between very different teaching placements makes me believe that there may be some benefit to teachers setting or resetting their expectations periodically since it's easy for hopes and aspirations to be gradually worn down in the day-to-day work at difficult-to-staff schools.  Easier-to-staff schools may be good environments for showing future teachers what is possible so that they when they do enter a classroom as the teacher of record they are more likely to maintain their ambition.

In any case, the Obama administration has signaled an interest in reforming the country's schools of education.  Hopefully such reforms are not exclusively test-focused and this kind of research can play a role in establishing "best practices" for teacher preparation. - PB (@MrPABruno) (Image source)

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