The single most important in-school factor in determining student outcomes is the quality of the teacher, yet as a nation we are not taking the measures necessary to ensure that every child has an excellent teacher, every year. In our urban cities, the children who need the best teachers in the nation are often given the least experienced and least effective teachers available. When it comes to hiring new teachers, urban districts are forced to play the “teacher lottery”: hoping that a new teacher will be effective, without any mechanism for guarantee.
Former teachers Jennifer Green and Christina Hall recognized that the traditional means by which teachers are trained didn’t ensure a teacher would be effective at helping students learn. So, the pair created Urban Teachers, a new kind of teacher preparation organization which aims to end the unpredictable teacher pipeline, and ensure that every teacher who completes the program is an effective teacher. They accomplish this by:
- Terrific candidates: Urban Teachers aggressively recruits exceptional candidates from across the nation, and carefully selects individuals with high potential for becoming effective teachers.
- A four-year commitment: Urban Teachers develops candidates who want to make a sustained and lasting commitment to the teaching profession.
- Meticulous preparation: Urban Teachers’ four-year program begins with a residency year in which participants partner with a successful current teacher. Simultaneously, participants enroll in an innovative and clinically-based dual master’s degree program in general and special education designed exclusively by Urban Teachers.
- Unprecedented accountability: To progress across the four years of the program, Urban Teachers residents and teachers must demonstrate their ability to improve student performance. No Urban Teachers teacher will complete the program (and subsequently be granted a state license) without improving student performance a minimum average of one year across the first two years of instruction.
Urban Teachers has prepared 31 teachers who now serve as full time teachers of record. All have been trained in teaching special education and all teach in low-income schools serving the children of Baltimore and DC. These 31 teachers passed through initial screens evaluating their ability to improve student achievement; Urban Teachers exited aspiring teachers who were not on the same path to improving student learning. UUrban Teachers C is poised to expand its cohort and to add secondary licenses, enabling the organization to reach more high-needs students.
How NewSchools Helped
NewSchools has partnered closely with co-founders Jennifer Green and Christina Hall from the inception of their idea for Urban Teachers. NewSchools, the Urban Teachers team and its board are keenly aware of the need to create a sustainable financial model for this new type of teacher preparation organization. Working closely with other funders, NewSchools is helping Urban Teachers explore the potential for a pool of privately-backed loans that would serve as a substitute for federal student loans, giving Urban Teachers residents access to financial support at sustainable rates. “New Schools Venture Fund came to us with money at a time when we had great ideas but no significant funds available to execute them. Without New School’s financial, intellectual and networking support we never would have had the opportunity to create this organization and this breakthrough teacher preparation model,” said Christina Hall.