Top 30

Deans for Impact

More than 20 education school deans from colleges and universities are aiming to change the teacher preparation system. The deans are core members of Deans for Impact, an organization that is tackling four major issues:

  • Raising the quality of data collected on teacher effectiveness once students begin their education career;
  • Providing richer learning experiences with more teaching and mentoring time in K-12 schools;
  • Improving teaching decisions through cognitive science — the study of thought and learning; and
  • Talking about what schools of education are doing well instead of just focusing on what they’re doing wrong.

“The group got started because of a growing realization that there were a lot of leaders in the field of teacher preparation who were eager to create a new voice and do collective work together around improving teacher preparation,” said Benjamin Riley, the organization’s executive director. 

As part of their collaboration efforts, the deans have created an inventory of different types of assessment data that they collect. Now they’re starting to sift through the data to look for common assessments that indicate how well a teacher preparation program educates its students, said Bob Pianta, dean and professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. Those common assessments could include the test scores of a teacher’s K-12 students, how long they stay in the teaching profession and how many job offers they receive.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is say, ‘How does the training of teachers become much more intentional, much more justifiable in certain ways, and have a stronger impact?’” Pianta said. “And we have to do that on some rational basis. Right now, most of the information we collect on teacher development is very idiosyncratic.”  

A number of state policy leaders are interested in collecting better data so that teacher preparation programs can use it to improve their education, Riley said. The group’s efforts have also received a positive response from a report on cognitive science research about how students learn and what that means for teachers. In addition, Deans for Impact has been helping its members improve their existing programs through site visits. 

Moving forward, Riley would like to see the group connect more with leaders in schools, districts and other teacher training programs so they can work together to reimagine the way teachers learn. “Make no mistake,” he said, “we have a lot of work still to do.” —Tanya Roscorla