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U of M group aims to improve teacher training nationwide

a man stands in front of a classroom at a white board
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
TeachingWorks, a national organization based at U of M, aims to develop a nationwide system for all teaching programs, so that teachers are prepared the minute they walk into the classroom.

There’s currently no set standard for how to train K through 12 teachers. Every program in the country has a different curriculum. As a result, the level of teaching skill varies widely.

A new nationwide organization based at the University of Michigan aims to change that.

The goal of Teaching Works is to develop a nationwide system for all teaching programs, so that teachers are prepared the minute they walk into the classroom.

The person in charge of Teaching Works is Deborah Ball, Dean of the U of M’s School of Education:

"The real lack of a significant training system has become more and more clear, and I think we’re at a point in this country, given our concerns for student learning, that we have to recognize we will not improve the learning of U.S. students without building a real system for the preparation of teachers."

Ball says the new training curriculum will focus on a set of “core skills” for programs to teach.

"For example," says Ball, "being able to explain a concept quickly is very different than just knowing it yourself. Or being able to set up a task and engage the students in the work so that they know what they’re doing and they’re actually learning what’s designed is not easy to do."

Other examples of core skills include teaching how to lead a classroom discussion, and how to diagnose students’ learning difficulties.

Ball says she’s already gotten several calls from programs eager to work together to develop the new professional training system.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan taped a special message for the TeachingWorks launch. In his remarks, Secretary Duncan said the country needs to "raise the bar for teacher prep," and that he planned to follow "with great interest" TeachingWork's progress.

The U.S. Department of Education projects that by 2014, one million new teaching positions will need to be filled by the next generation of teachers.

In addition to TeachingWorks, Dean Ball is also part of the group creating Michigan's new "evaluation tool" for current teachers. Governor Rick Snyder appointed Ball to lead the Governor's Council on Educator Effectiveness.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.