Making the Most of Student Teaching in Indianapolis Public Schools

With the support of the Joyce Foundation, Education First has facilitated a Community of Practice with chief talent officers in Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Chicago on their efforts to improve teacher preparation in their districts. In the coming weeks, we will feature blogs from each of the chief talent officers about what they’ve learned.

There’s no question that student teaching is a critical part of teacher preparation. Meaningful, in-classroom experience with a strong mentor teacher can help new teachers be more effective starting on their first day leading a classroom. Additionally, student teaching is an opportunity for schools and districts to cultivate and recruit talented new teachers. If student teachers have a positive experience, they are more likely to accept an offer for a permanent position. That is especially important in Indianapolis and other cities where it can be more difficult to recruit teachers from out of state.

Those two goals—improving the effectiveness of new teachers and recruiting a higher percentage of student teachers in to full-time positions—have guided our recent changes to student teaching in Indianapolis. We’ve focused on three main strategies:

  • Recruiting and Rewarding Outstanding Clinical Preparation Teacher Leaders. Clinical Preparation Teacher Leaders (CPTLs)—the teachers who serve as “hosts” and mentors to student teachers—have a huge impact on the experience of student teachers. An outstanding CPTL can give student teachers invaluable advice and support to build their instructional expertise, while also making the most credible case for staying at IPS long-term. We’ve been working to formalize the CPTL role so that CPTLs understand the expectations, are evaluated and supported and receive a stipend for their efforts; additionally, IPS staff will collect and analyze data on CPTLs across the district so that we can continue to improve the program. With those structures in place, we can have stronger CPTLs—benefiting both student teachers and students.
  • Creating the Student Teacher Advisory Committee. We can’t improve student teaching without the input and support of local teacher preparation programs. Recently, we formed the Student Teacher Advisory Committee (STAC) with a group of five teacher preparation programs—Ball State University, Marian University, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis,  Indiana University – Bloomington and Indiana State University—as a way to coordinate and collaborate in our efforts to improve the experience of student teachers. More specifically, we’ve been working on developing a readiness assessment for student teachers coming in to the district, as well as clarifying the role, competencies and expectations for CPTLs.
  • Centralizing Student Teacher Placement. In order for student teachers to get the support and training they need, we must ensure they are placed in the right schools and classrooms. Previously, student teacher placement and evaluation was handled on an ad hoc basis at the school level, which made it difficult for us to track how student teachers were doing—and whether schools and CPTLs were setting up student teachers for success in a consistent way. We have now centralized this process, allowing us to make changes at both the system and school level to improve the student teaching experience.

While we’re excited about our progress so far, we still have a long way to go. It’s been so encouraging to see that all involved parties—including district and school leaders, teachers and local teacher preparation programs—are invested in making student teaching better. If we can continue to build on this momentum, the future of IPS’ student teaching, and our students in general, looks bright.

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