Is team teaching the future of education?

America has no shortage of licensed teachers. However, there is a shortage of people willing to teach.

High pressure. Low wages. Little encouragement. More responsibilities accumulate every year. These are some of the reasons why the profession is bleeding personnel.

But that could change if educational institutions consider systemic and structural approaches that spark imaginations, encourage collaboration, and improve outcomes for teachers and students.

The team-teaching model is one of many ideas that emerged at the Next Education Workforce Summit 2022, a virtual conference hosted last week by Arizona State University‘s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“We need to think of school communities as teams. We need to think about how to build a team of adults around us that can include key school staff and key outside staff,” said keynote speaker John B. King Jr., Education Trust president and former US Secretary of Education during Obama. administration. “The important thing is that young people have powerful, positive relationships with adults who help them learn the skills they need for long-term success. … We also need to think about how to move our culture towards a culture of continuous improvement.

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In addition to King, other experts who have led conversations on these topics – collaborative partnerships, school funding, policy, inclusivity, teacher retention, infusion of classroom tutoring, workforce pipeline and business models team teaching – were Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, the Association of School Superintendents; Patricia Levesque, CEO of Excelin Ed; Bryan Hassel, co-president of Public Impact; David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and professor of education at Johns Hopkins University; Sarah Beal, executive director of US PREP; and Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

The two-day event, held February 2-3, encouraged education practitioners, leaders and experts to explore how colleges of education and others work in partnership with schools and K-12 communities across the country to design the next workforce of education.

The virtual summit drew approximately 300 attendees from public and charter schools, universities, think tanks, nonprofits and foundations. These participants represented three continents; 38 states and the District of Columbia; 85 school districts; 60 higher education establishments; 50 school support organizations; and 60 organizations that support education through philanthropy, government and media.

The summit was the culmination of work that Teachers College has been pursuing for five years – work rooted in the recognition that the education workforce needs a total overhaul that takes an approach of team-based teaching if school systems hope to retain teachers and improve outcomes for learners.

“When I said Next Education Workforce, I’m not talking about a generation from now. I’m talking about what we need to do right now to think differently about staffing our schools,” said Brent Maddin, executive director of the Teachers College Next Education Workforce initiative and organizer of the summit “If we build teams of educators who have shared expertise, we can leverage that to personalize and deepen learning not just for some children, but for all children. And if we organize our profession and design our workforce that way, it creates new ways to specialize and advance.

According to a report by the Learning Policy Institute, enrollment in teacher training has fallen by 35% in recent years. In Arizona, 35,000 people are certified to teach but have chosen not to practice their profession for various reasons.

Domenech said schools across the country are closing not because of fewer students, but because “the workforce isn’t there.”

“There’s going to have to be a change, and we can’t do things the way we used to,” he said during a panel discussion on Feb. 2. “The team idea is very promising and an important option. Great things can be done.

Teachers College experts have been saying for years that the one-teacher, one-classroom model is centuries old and was originally designed for the industrial age. That’s why the college is working with school districts locally and across the country to take a different approach where students are served by teams of educators that include certified teachers, subject specialists, and trained volunteers (known as community educators) that can meet individual learning needs.

Carole Basile, Dean of Teachers College, said this team model is a way to give teachers “more flexibility in their classrooms, improve working conditions and also end isolation. That comes with opportunities for advancement and all kinds of things that help us retain our teachers.

This approach is no longer conceptual or a new “big idea”. Thousands of students are now taking this teaching, and what Teachers College started in 2017 is not just catching on, but catching fire.

Former Obama Administration Education Secretary John King Jr. (right) delivers the keynote address for the Next Education Workforce Summit 2022 with Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Dean Carole Basile via webcast , Wednesday, February 2. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The Mesa Public School District, which educates more than 60,000 students and is the largest in Arizona, is struggling to retain full-time teachers, substitutes, paraeducators and staff. The district is currently building Next Education Workforce models in 19 of the district’s schools. These models establish teams of educators who share rosters of students and adapt instruction to meet each student’s individual needs, leveraging the expertise of certified teachers, paraeducators, and other adults in a role educative.

“What was most important about the Mesa Public Schools community is that our students, when they reach that graduation milestone, that they had K-12 experiences , so they will not only graduate, but be ethical, inclusive, and resilient,” said Andi Fourlis, Superintendent of Mesa Public Schools. “And then when you see those skills, you’ll also see someone who is a collaborator, a community contributor, a creative thinker and innovator, and a problem solver. … That’s what our business community demands. .

Fourlis said the collaboration with Teachers College has been so successful that she hopes to embed Next Education Workforce models in 50% of schools in her district by 2023.

In breakout sessions on February 3, nine schools offered anecdotal testimonials on how they have incorporated team models into their classrooms.

One of them was the Center for Advanced Research and Technology, a school in Clovis, California, which enrolls students from two districts. Teachers there say they enjoy collaborative teaching experiences and witnessing student success.

They do this by combining rigorous academics with technical, design, entrepreneurial, and critical thinking skills. Classes are taught by three rotating instructors in Chemistry, Physics and English.

Dave Watson, CEO of the center, said students benefit greatly from this model.

“After their experience at our school, students leave feeling like they can accomplish anything.”

And at Bronx International High School in New York, a culturally diverse institution that educates about 400 students — most of whom have been in the United States for less than four years — a new design is also making a big difference to student outcomes. The teachers there are divided into “academic teams” and the students work on interdisciplinary projects with various instructors.

Their approach to teaching and student assessments is collaborative, according to science teacher Jesusa Merioles.

“We meet twice a week and visit each other’s classrooms so that we can work through a myriad of issues,” said Merioles, who has been at the school for nearly a dozen years. “Student success is what matters most as teachers, both individually and as a team.”

Maddin, who organized and hosted this year’s event, said the summit was a success on many levels. This included the presentation of content, the number of participants, the exchange of ideas and the networking opportunities offered to those who participated virtually.

“We think next year’s summit will be even bigger,” Maddin said. “We are thrilled with the number of national partners who have committed to creating more sustainable staffing models in schools that produce better outcomes for educators and learners.”

Learn more about the Next Education Workforce and review the 2022 Next Education Workforce Summit.

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