Innovative work with Teachers is Underway at Atlanta Neighborhood Charter
'While state and federal education budgets are systematically being cut, ANCS has more teachers than ever on campus thanks to a 3-year, $950,000 grant from the Governor’s Innovation Fund (sourced by the Department of Education’s Race to The Top initiative
by Elizabeth Hearn
This year the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, with campuses in both Ormewood Park (grades 6-8) and Grant Park (grades K-5), celebrated an exciting increase in educators on campus. Yes, you read it correctly: ANCS’s teacher numbers are up. While state and federal education budgets are systematically being cut, ANCS has more teachers than ever on campus thanks to a 3-year, $950,000 grant from the Governor’s Innovation Fund (sourced by the Department of Education’s Race to The Top initiative).
ANCS began the school year with the arrival of 8 pre-service teachers from Georgia State University, launching its groundbreaking teacher residency program called the New Teacher Residency Project (NTRP). A collaborative project between ANCS and GSU's College of Education, this project is designed to address fundamental flaws in the traditional new teacher induction process seen widely across the country. Nationally, nearly half of all new teachers exit the classroom within their first five years, citing challenging working conditions and the absence of a supportive professional culture for their frustration. ANCS is addressing the needs of new teachers differently by providing desirable working conditions, a great deal of support from experienced teachers, and ongoing coursework at GSU. This system of interventions is comprehensive, connects research and practice, and targets the specific needs of teachers during their first three years in the classroom.
Termed “social capital” (meaningful, positive interactions and collaborative relationships) and “human capital” (craft knowledge and skill), novice teachers are building relationships and skill on a daily basis through the specific interventions outlined below:
- Observing experienced teachers: The first phase for a “teacher resident” entails two-years at ANCS. First-year residents are pre-service student teachers getting their feet wet working alongside an experienced and skilled cooperating teacher in the classroom. Second-year residents are paid Associate Teachers placed in a team-teaching partnership with a cooperating teacher, a role for which they are well-prepared following graduation from one of the GSU teaching certification programs.
- Mentorship from experienced teachers: Each of the residents is also supported by an ANCS mentor. Mentors are master teachers who have engaged grant-funded graduate work as Teacher Support Specialists to enhance their ability to support residents effectively. Mentors meet twice each month with their assigned resident to reflect on questions and concerns about teaching. Residents work with their mentor through the first two years at ANCS, as well as during their third year, when they pursue full-time teaching at ANCS or another school, or enroll in a Masters Degree program, while continuing to access ongoing support from their mentor and the NTRP Program Director.
- Critical Friends Groups: Ongoing participation in Critical Friends Groups will constitute a second innovative intervention for all residents. A Critical Friends Group, or CFG, is a small group of teachers who convene regularly to discuss and examine teaching and learning in structured ways. CFGs are cited widely in education literature as an invaluable tool for building teachers’ capacity for reflection about the practice of teaching, in turn building skill which can lead to a improved student outcomes, including higher levels of student learning.
- University-level study of teaching and research: During their second year, residents take part in post-baccalaureate coursework at GSU in a specific teaching content area, obtaining certified teaching endorsements in reading, math or special education.
The NTRP is funding eight bright and eager first-year residents and five fabulous second-year residents. By placing these new teachers in a “gradual release” residency under the guidance of at least two veteran teachers, with regular participation in a structured professional learning group of teachers, and with continued academic study of teaching through a well-regarded college of education, the NTRP makes it possible for early-career teachers to learn not only what teaching practices are successful with students, but also to be supported while experiencing the inevitable struggles and difficulties that emerge during a teacher’s first three years in the classroom — a model that is both comprehensive and innovative in its approach to induction.
In the next 10 years, over half of the nation’s nearly 3.2 million public school teachers will become eligible for retirement. Who will replace them? How do we attract and keep the best minds in the profession? As a nation, we need to prove that we’re serious about education by addressing the issues that deter so many new teachers. Without question, it will benefit our country, state, city and the communities of East Atlanta, Ormewood Park and Grant Park to do all we can to attract and assist bright, energized new teachers.
The NTRP is embarking on this work currently, so if you care to learn more about it or to find out more about the school, please visit our website (http://
atlncs.org/). There will also be school information sessions in February and March and the dates of those sessions will be put on our website and disseminated in the Patch starting in January.
Ms. Hearn is NTRP Project Director at the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School.