Niagara University and 12 partners, including the Niagara Falls City School District, were awarded an Investing in Innovation (or "i3") grant of $3 million from the U.S. Department of Education. The federally funded program is designed to advance student achievement in high-need schools in grades 3 to 6 mathematics and science through improved teacher preparation and early-career teaching support.
The project, "Building a Pipeline of Teaching Excellence," capitalizes on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards' (National Board) unique repository of case studies of accomplished teaching, including videos of board-certified teachers paired with reflective analyses describing instructional decision-making and teaching strategies. The cases will be housed in an online resource called Accomplished Teaching, Learning, and Schools (ATLAS).
Through the i3 grant, the National Board and its partners will pilot ATLAS cases in six teacher preparation programs and seven local education agencies (LEAs). The project will help embed National Board standards and exemplars of accomplished teaching in pre-service and induction in participating institutions of higher education and LEAs.
The National Board will oversee this project, convening partners to develop new instructional approaches that are high-impact, cost-effective and scalable. Ultimately, ATLAS will expand across all 25 National Board certificate areas, including thousands of cases addressing all areas of the curriculum and every developmental level of pre-K-12 education.
Dr. Debra Colley, dean of Niagara University's College of Education, noted that the project addresses a need in teacher preparation by providing pre-service programs with up-to-date tools so as to strengthen the preparation provided to teachers and extend that preparation through their early years in teaching.
"National Board standards are the DNA of accomplished teaching," she said. "By embedding them at the heart of pre-service and induction, we will ensure that new teachers in STEM fields will be ready for the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards."
Partners in this project include Stanford University's Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (edTPA); the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education; the Council of Chief State School Officers; TeachingWorks at the University of Michigan; and the project's evaluation partner, the American Institutes for Research. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are in-kind partners in the project.
Along with the Niagara Falls City School District, other partners include Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (Tennessee); Jackson Madison County Schools (Tennessee); Tipton County, Tenn.; Yakima Schools (Washington); Seattle Public Schools (Washington); West Valley School District (Washington); University Educational Service District 105 (Washington), Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State University, University of Memphis, University of Washington and Central Washington.
Over the course of the grant, the free training in early childhood learning is expected to benefit about 1,500 area teachers and impact 35,000 schoolchildren.
"As a district, we are already very committed to advancing the skills of our teachers, which has proven to be one of the most effective ways of enhancing student achievement," stated Cynthia Bianco, superintendent of the Niagara Falls City School District. "We consider ourselves fortunate to be chosen for this program and look forward to enhancing the quality of education and innovation in our schools."
Niagara University's College of Education brings a strong commitment to working in partnership with P-12 schools to enhance student learning; and prepare teachers, educational leaders and school counselors from pre-service to ongoing professional learning. The strength of these mutually beneficial partnerships - with the Niagara Falls City School District, in this case - and the quality of NU graduates has once again been recognized by the college's involvement in this prestigious project with the National Board.
Dr. Ron Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board, hailed the grant as an important building block in shaping a true professional continuum of teacher development and excellence.
"The work undertaken with our partners will directly raise student achievement in STEM fields by strengthening the way we prepare and induct teachers into the profession," he said.
The National Board and its partners will widely disseminate findings from this project through research and policy briefs, presentations to their memberships, research monographs, postings on websites and social media. The primary role of organizational partners will be to facilitate the dissemination of information and research gleaned from this initiative. Findings will be broadly disseminated to all of the nation's schools, colleges and departments of education; state education agencies; and the National Board's network of 100,000 accomplished teachers and policy partners.
The mission of the National Board is to advance student learning and achievement by establishing the definitive standards and systems for certifying accomplished educators, providing programs and advocating policies that support excellence in teaching and leading, and engaging National Board certified teachers and leaders in that process.
For more information on Niagara University's College of Education, call 716-286-8560 or visit www.niagara.edu/education.