Sample Draft of Problem Statement

PROBLEM (note: our outline in italics; draft response in standard font. Read in order, but without the italics.)

Low student achievement on performance tests (multiple languages and cultures)

The problems in the California’s schools are headline news of late, with blaring stories in the popular press, academic journals, and television and radio: People read and hear that students in California schools speak more than 77 languages other than English, making instruction difficult and complex. That only 21% of fourth-graders in high-poverty urban schools scored at the basic level or higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Test’s reading section. That over 70% of third-graders in Los Angeles County cannot read at their grade level. With such dismal statistics before them, society is now pressuring universities to produce talented teachers who can meet these classroom challenges—yet the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reports that one-quarter of U.S. teachers are unprepared or under-prepared, with those percentages far higher in California. In the L.A. Unified School District, for example, approximately 60% of the teachers hold emergency credentials, a classification that simply means these are teachers with little or no experience or education in the teaching profession.

Shortage of trained teachers, as a result of classroom size reduction, retirement, and poor status and pay, etc. High turnover of new teachers, especially emergency credential (isolation of job, generally with no support)

Not only are there huge numbers of under-prepared teachers attempting to function in L.A. area schools, there is also a general teacher shortage because of the legislated class size reductions in grades K-3. In an attempt to improve children’s academic performance, the government decreased the class size, but that alone is an insufficient solution, and has placed additional stress on the overburdened educational system. Teachers in classrooms must be prepared—not merely physically present—and all indications are that they do not have that preparation.

Further problems strain the system. Projected retirements will drain the teacher supply pipeline, which has grown paltry in recent years because of the public’s perceived poor status of teaching as a profession. Those people committed enough to enter education often do not last, once they are placed in classrooms; in fact, in California , more than half of emergency credential teachers quit before the end of their first year! And, on national average, classroom teachers leave the profession after six years.

Other programs’ problems and quality of teacher preparation programs (often resulting in under-prepared teachers);

Separation between theory and practice

Lack of supervised clinical experience

Lack of support

Disjointed and piecemeal and fragmented with no learning community

Isolation of the profession and the aspiring professional

No integration of theory and practice thru real classroom experience

Now in the spotlight, university teacher preparation programs are rethinking and reconfiguring the education they offer teacher candidates—and particular methods have been embraced as holding great potential for turning the dire situation around quickly. Let us summarize what educational specialists report as the reasons why teacher preparation programs could not meet their missions; the poor training is largely due to the separation of the theory of learning from the practice of teaching; the lack of supervised clinical experience for teacher candidates; the disjointed, piecemeal, and fragmented curricula of the universities that often had no direct relationship to the situations novice teachers are thrust into; and, finally, the isolation and lack of support to which beginning teachers are subjected.

In What Matters Most, a report focusing on why and how to improve teacher training, educational policy makers directly link students’ performance improvement with improved teacher training. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education advocates giving “teachers-in-training and new teachers more classroom experience,” while the U.S. Department of Education recommends providing professional support to beginning teachers during their initial teaching experiences. To quote the influential educational reformer, Linda Darling-Hammond,  “providing the kind of preparation that teachers need to meet current demands for stepped-up student learning requires a fundamental redefinition of the act of teaching. . . To teach so that all students actually learn, teachers must learn about learning as well as about the structures and modes of inquiry of their disciplines so that they can translate what they know into effective curriculum, teaching strategies, and assessments (Academe, January-February, 1999).”

It is this multi-faceted problem that the proposed project will address, all with the goal of creating a transferable model for teacher preparation and support. The project is grounded in research-based practice and puts into effect the five criteria established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—1) that teachers are committed to students and their learning; 2) that teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to their students; 3) that teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning; 4) that teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from their experience; and 5) that teachers are members of learning communities.

INSERT A ONE-SENTENCE SUMMARY OF WHAT THE PROJECT IS TO LEAD INTO THE DESIGN.

PARAGRAPH ON OVERALL PROJECT DESIGN

The project will implement a working model of an urban professional development school in x cluster of LAUSD, with a training component, a continued support component, and an emphasis on building a learning community for teachers, administrators, and university faculty. The activities all will take place at school sites—the learning laboratories–using a team-teaching approach with university faculty and K-12 teachers and administrators working together. Because this model for change includes whole school participation, administrators will be actively involved in all phases. Technology use will be integrated throughout. Model curricula for pre-service and in-service preparation will be piloted, evaluated, and refined, based on input from teachers and participants. Evaluation will include university and K-12 faculty outcomes, as well as student outcomes. Dissemination to the wider interested communities will enable other urban universities and school districts to work together to replicate the urban professional development school model.

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