Improving Practice in Education | Teachers College Columbia University

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Improving Practice in Education

"Since its inception, Teachers College has served the needs of urban and suburban schools, in this country and abroad, with a commitment to disavantaged children and urban schools. While the conditions facing eduators today are more challenging than ever, the College remains faithful to its mission."

Creating New Ways of Practice

Evaluating Standardized Test Results

With school districts placing more importance on test scores, it is important to know what all of these numbers mean. Using statistics, probability and computer coding, Kikumi Tatsuoka has come up with the Rule-Space Model, which can determine individual strengths and weaknesses based on how a test-taker responds to questions on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT).

Tatsuoka is a full-time project director in TC's Department of Human Development, a Distinguished Research Scientist and Adjunct Professor of Statistics and Education. She has been working on the model under various grants since 1980, and developed it while working at Educational Testing Services. The College Board began to use her model to report diagnostic results-or scores broken down into relatively specific achievement areas and cognitive subskills-with fall 2002 SAT scores.

"Students may have similar scores, but entirely different strengths and weaknesses," Tatsuoka said. The Rule-Space Model analyzes the score and looks at the test-takers' specific skills based on the answer choice he or she made. Tasuoka's method tells schools and parents exactly what the lump score means. It tells them where the students went wrong and provides suggestions for improvement in specific areas.

Heritage School

The Heritage School, which opened in 1997 with a class of 85 ninth graders, is a public secondary school located in East Harlem that was established through a unique collaboration between Teachers College and the New York City Department of Education. Currently, approximately 300 ninth through twelfth graders are enrolled.

From its inception, The Heritage School has been dedicated to school reform and high academic standards for all of its students. The School's hallmark is an innovative curriculum in which learning in traditional subject areas is balanced with interdisciplinary study, with a special focus on integrating the arts-visual, music, dance and drama-throughout the curriculum. To accomplish this, the School makes extensive use of the City's cultural resources as contexts for learning, organizing visits to theaters, libraries, museums and concert halls as an integral part of the academic progam. A grant from the Charles Evans Hughes Foundation provides for two staff members-a museum education coordinator and arts integrations specialist-to work with teachers and staff to keep the arts central to the School's mission and curriculum.

The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation also supports The Heritage School programs and funds a series of meetings at The Heritage School for other school principals and teachers to encourage replication of best practices of Heritage's arts program at other high schools in New York City.

Professional Development School Partnership

Teachers College has been involved in Professional Development Schools (PDS) since 1988, when it established a PDS at P.S. 87 in New York City School District 3. In the PDS Partnership, there is a formal commitment between a university and certain schools-in which the schools can be the equivalent of a teaching hospital. The TC partnership grew to include other schools such as P.S. 207, P.S. 165, Middle School 44, and the Beacon High School, an alternative school of secondary education.

In May 2002, the TC-PDS Partnership held its first conference for teachers from partner schools and representatives of Hunter College, who were involved in developing a PDS program there. The conference included workshops on practice, curriculum, technology, and other topics of concern to PDS groups. Marsha Levine was keynote speaker. Levine's background includes work in public education reform, co-development of a project to support teachers' preparation for National Board Certification. She is currently senior consultant to the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for Professional Development Schools.

In her remarks, she noted that the potential of these kinds of partnerships to make a difference in terms of teacher quality and student achievement is very high. "The field of medicine had an enormous change 100 years ago when the introduction of teaching hospitals revolutionized the practice of medicine and made differences in that practice."

"PDS partnerships," she added, "have the possibility of making that level of change in schools."

Technology and Education

In June 2002, Teachers College held an innovative institute entitled, "Teacher Education in a Digital Age: Preparing English, History, and Social Studies Teachers to Use Technology." The five-day institute was a collaboration between the departments of English Education and Social Studies Education. The institute's organizers hoped to bring together teacher educators from around the country and the world to discuss ways to integrate technology into teacher training programs in the humanities. Twenty-four participants from universities in the United States and Asia, along with representatives from business and government, came together to share ideas, and explore new ways to use technology.

The institute organizers also collaborated with the American Museum of Natural History, Asia Society, New York Historical Society, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, and Scholastic, Inc. Professors Margaret Crocco and Stephen Thornton from the Program in Social Studies Education, along with Professor James Albright from English Education, Professor Howard Budin from the Center for Technology and School Change, and Educational Technology Specialist Judith Cramer organized the institute.

Larry Cuban of Stanford University gave the keynote address based on his book Oversold and Underused. In his research in Silicon Valley, Cuban discovered that even well-funded schools that could afford hardware still found it difficult to implement the use of technology routinely in the classroom.

Part of the inspiration for the institute arose from the organizers' experience of being involved together in activities funded by a PT3 grant. PT3-shorthand for "Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology"-is a federally funded Department of Education program to support technology initiatives at colleges and universities doing teacher education. Teachers College received two grants from the PT3 program. The summer institute was an opportunity for all participants to share ideas and learn from colleagues at other institutions, many of whom had also been awarded PT3 grants.

Published Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2003