Reform affects student teachers

It has become more difficult to place Butler’s approximately 100 student teachers in the midst of education reform and the state’s new teacher evaluation standards, said Sue Stahl, director of student personnel services in the College of Education.

The new evaluation guidelines will become effective next school year. Those who receive low ratings can be dismissed at the end of the school year. If a teacher is rated as ineffective twice over two years, he or she can also be dismissed.

Allison Wright, a senior elementary education major, has been student teaching all school year, first in Washington Township and then in Carmel Clay schools.

She said faculty at both schools have discussed the new evaluation system.

“Schools can be nervous about having student teachers and whether or not that will affect their test scores or evaluations,” she said.

Those ratings are based mostly on observations and also in part on the students’ test scores.

The state’s model is called RISE, but other districts have been implementing their own systems to meet the evaluation standard.

Other reform measures that are beginning to take effect are creation of vouchers, an increase in  the number of charter schools and the state’s ability to take over failing schools.

Wright said that she will definitely take into consideration how a district evaluates teachers when she is applying for jobs but that it is not a major concern in her mind.

“You just take it as it is and do what is best for the kids,” Wright said. “If you’re helping them, everything will be fine.”

Stahl said last year was “tough” for placements, so members of the COE went out ahead of time this year to talk to districts about what taking on a Butler student means and what they could gain.

This was done in order to overcome an initial reaction from administrators and teachers who are already juggling mandates from the state.

“With some of them, it’s almost like they put their hands up and say, ‘Oh no, I can’t take one more thing,’” she said.

Stahl said that reaction usually changes once they reconsider how much classroom experience Butler student teachers have and once the college’s model of student teaching is explained to them.

The COE has started to implement co-teaching, which allows a cooperating teacher to stay in the room for the duration of the student’s placement. It allows them to split the class into groups or have two teachers teaching at the same time.

“Once the schools have got a grasp and understand our co-teaching approach, it’s a much more fluid process for those of us here at Butler,” she said.

Lindley Mundell, a senior elementary education major, student taught in Avon in the fall and is now in Wayne Township schools.

Mundell said she had more control over the classroom during her first placement but that she finds the co-teaching model to be good for both the student teacher and the cooperating teacher.

“It is so great, so worth it, and we learn so much from one another,” she said. “It’s really neat because we can steal ideas from each other, and it makes all of us better.”

Mundell said the reforms are coming at a good time for students graduating in May, even if they might be challenging.

“We’re learning it right alongside those experienced teachers,” she said. “We’re not going to know anything else, whereas it’s a major change for them.”

She said she will take into account the attitude of the school district toward the reforms to see if it aligns with her goals for her students.

It will create an interesting balancing act, Mundell said.

“You have to go in with a different mindset and show that you can abide by the reforms and also be an advocate for the children,” she said.

No matter the district or the age of the students, Stahl said reforms have impacted student teaching and education as a whole.

“(Reform) has affected all of education, because it’s an era of high-stakes accountability,” Stahl said. “Schools are under tremendous pressure money-wise and results-wise to show that children are progressing.”

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