Broadening the Concept of Teacher Education
Lynne Miller and David Ruff
The Southern Maine Partnership was founded on the power of three:
pre-service teacher education, ongoing professional development,
and the transformation of schooling. To that end, we have broadened
the concept of teacher education to include the deepening of teaching
practice for in-service teachers, the development and support
of school leaders, and the transformation of schools to support
equitable, personal, and rigorous learning for all students.
We ground this broader view in what Lieberman and Miller (1999)
term learning out of school, that is, providing the opportunity
for educators to explore knowledge from outside the boundaries
and visions of their own schools (p. 70). "In this model...teachers
find themselves in groups...who have been brought together to
reinvent, learn, and teach each other ways of working in school,
and put them in touch with colleagues who are working on similar
problems of practice. [These groups] give teachers opportunities
to expand their repertoires and to become mentors, organizers,
curriculum writers, and professional developers in their own right"
Over time, we have had to invent and re-invent processes, strategies,
and venues for learning out of school. Our original structures
are still in place, and they have been complemented by new processes,
strategies, and approaches. Membership dues continue to support
a myriad of professional learning opportunities for educators
across school boundaries and years of experience. These include:
Dine and Discuss evenings, collaborative inquiry groups, writing
for print and non-print publications, telecommunications and face
to face conversations, reviews of student and teacher work, opportunities
to design and participate in university degree programs, leadership
seminars, role-alike groups, small and large group presentations,
briefings on research and information about practice, and short
institutes and conferences.
New opportunities have grown as the result of grant-funded work.
Two of these grant-funded projects are described below: The Learner-Centered
Accountability Project (LCA) was a five year project, funded by
the Robert T. Noyce Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation,
that lasted from 1997 until 2001 and focused on creating assessment
and accountability systems in six member high schools. The idea
was to bring together a group of schools that were committed to
developing assessment systems that did more than just measure
student achievement, but were willing to consider those aspects
of their organizations that actually supported or impeded student
learning. The Partnership engaged the school faculties, within
and across school boundaries, in a cycle of inquiry that set clear
goals, collected and analyzed data, researched and learned about
potential solutions, designed appropriate professional learning
opportunities, implemented action plans, and then re-analyzed
data to see if increases in student achievement had occurred.
Data collected focused on several areas: student attainment, instructional
practices, school organizational design, leadership, and school/community
collaboration. As a result of the project, teachers developed
the capacity to analyze and use data; they developed achievement
profiles for different segments of the school population; they
learned how the school's organization and its instructional practices
impacted achievement; and they tried out and implemented new structures
and practices and evaluated their effectiveness.
The Great Maine Schools Project (GMS), which began in 2003 and
is funded until 2008 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
is a collaborative effort by the Southern Maine Partnership, the
Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute, and
the Center for Educational Transformation at the Maine Department
of Education to reshape secondary education in the State of Maine.
The project promotes the implementation of the vision of schools
that is at the center of the Southern Maine Partnership's mission:
an equitable, personalized, and rigorous education that prepares
individuals for further education, work, and citizenship. Through
the GMS, Partnership "coaches" work extensively in eighteen
schools throughout the state to assist teachers and administrators
as they examine classroom instructional practices, school structures,
policies and procedures. In many ways, the work of the coaches
in the GMS schools builds on the LCA Project: they work with educators
to collect and analyze data, and use that data to change practice.
However, the Great Maine Schools Project has a wider reach; it
extends beyond assessment and accountability concerns and aims
to redesign the whole school on behalf of the learning of all
The GMS schools are part of a larger network that extends across
the state and engages educators in "out-of school" professional
learning and sharing. In both dues and grant funded work, the
Southern Maine Partnership strives to develop new and useful venues
for educator growth and development that lead to the development
of schools that fulfill the promise of public education.
Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (1999). Teachers: Transforming their world and their work. New York: Teaches College press.