Teach Your Teachers Well
Seven years ago, assistant professor of education Stephanie Behm Cross was approached by Matt Underwood, executive director of the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) in Grant Park, just a few miles south of Georgia State’s downtown campus. For several years, ANCS had hosted student teachers from the university’s College of Education & Human Development (CEHD), yet Underwood felt there was still a disconnect between the two institutions.
Georgia State students weren’t showing up fully prepared to manage a classroom, and at the same time the college’s core mission — to address issues of race in schools — wasn’t permeating the teaching experience either.
“Our curriculum here is really focused on social justice, equity and race,” says Cross. “We wanted to make sure those conversations were continuing. But at the same time, we wanted to make sure our students were really prepared to meet schools’ expectations.”
The result of those initial discussions was Collaboration and Reflection to Enhance Atlanta Teacher Effectiveness (CREATE), a new type of teacher residency model. In the program, schools host first-year student teachers who are provided with additional support and mentoring from veteran educators who also receive training and support from university faculty. They continue to receive support for the following two years — “which are really their first and second years as brand-new teachers,” says Cross.
The services the new teachers receive include mentorship across all three years of the program, access to mindfulness training and professional support groups where they can analyze problems of practice. There is also a strong focus on recruiting and supporting teachers of color.
CREATE is implemented today in 12 Atlanta public schools, including ANCS. In December, Cross received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement to further expand the program. The award will allow her to recruit more teachers, support the more than 600 educators already working with the program and (among other projects) develop a five-day, race-based intensive summer institute for teachers.
Cross and her CEHD co-investigators — Nadia Behizadeh, Jacob Hackett and Rhina Williams — are performing qualitative research to evaluate how CREATE is affecting teacher satisfaction, commitment to addressing issues of social justice in schools and long-term intention to stay in the field, and in high-needs schools. They’re also working with an external partner to assess the program’s effect on teacher retention and student test scores.
“Universities need to get better at partnering with schools to bridge the gap between coursework and what happens in the classroom,” says Cross. “With this program, we feel like we’re really learning from and with one another.”