Pittsburgh schools outline plans for teacher training

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The city school district plans to open a teacher training academy at Pittsburgh Brashear High School and Pittsburgh King PreK-8 next year as the district seeks to fundamentally change how its teachers are hired, trained, evaluated and paid.

The academy is a key component of the Empowering Effective Teachers Plan, which is part of the $40 million grant the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded to the district last year.

It will compliment the new model of teacher evaluation known as the Research-Based Inclusive System of Evaluation or RISE -- scheduled to roll out district-wide this fall -- as the district goes about improving the quality of instruction, said Superintendent Mark Roosevelt.

The proposal, which was presented to the school board on Monday, is part of a slew of school reform initiatives that are now woven into the five-year collective bargaining agreement the district recently reached with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Roosevelt said the academy, which will cost about $6 million to implement, will be composed of four programs -- induction, residency, certification and immersion -- which are critical in the hiring and retention of effective teachers.

To that end, all new teachers will spend three weeks undergoing training at the academy during summer and at least 10 days during the school year as part of the induction process.

The induction program, which will start this month, is designed to give teachers an introduction to the "Pittsburgh culture," said Jerri Lippert, chief academic officer of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

For years, Ms. Lippert said, the district's induction process for new teachers amounted to a two-day seminar on district policies and procedures by the teachers' union.

"This is a radical change. It is ridiculous that for years, we expected new teachers to enter the district after only two days of induction into the culture and practices of our schools," said Mr. Roosevelt.

This year, for example, the district plans to take new teachers on a bus tour of some city neighborhoods and community centers as part of the induction process.

New teachers in core content subjects like math, science, English, reading and history will have to complete a 13-month residency program before they are placed in district classrooms.

The academy also will have a teacher certification program for people who are changing careers to become teachers and recent college graduates to pursue alternative certification in math, science or special education.

The immersion program will see experienced teachers rotate in and out of the academy for six weeks at a time to improve their teaching skills, depending on their RISE evaluations.

The academy will have about 50 instructors comprised of experienced teachers that have proven themselves to be excellent teachers over the years. Known as clinical resident instructors, they will teach and serve as mentors for new teachers.

Under the contract recently approved by the district, clinical resident instructors will be paid an additional $13,300 annually to their base salary.

All new teachers hired after July 1 will enter the district on a new pay scale that changes the time needed to attain tenure from three years to four years and ties their compensation directly to how well they perform in the classroom.

The proposal, along with the district's plan to restructure East End secondary schools may be presented to the board for approval next month, official said.

Karamagi Rujumba: krujumba@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1719.


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