Investing Our Wisdom in Their Potential: Teacher Preparation and the New Story of Learning

Dennis Richards, MASCD President; Superintendent, Falmouth Public Schools
Massachusetts Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development


Personally, this is an important time in my grandchildren’s educational lives. My oldest grandson enters high school this fall. Two other grandchildren enter kindergarten and preschool. My youngest grandchild began to crawl last week. Four years ago MASCD joined a coalition to improve instruction in every classroom throughout the state by improving educator quality.1 If the legislation we propose for improving educator quality had passed, children like my grandchildren would be benefiting from the improvements in schools now. For some reason we haven’t been able to convey the urgency of our plea.

• A professional knowledge base exists for education.
• We must ensure that all ten personnel processes that determine educator quality, including teacher preparation, are rooted in the professional knowledge base.
• The promise of excellent classrooms lies in significantly improving the quality of teachers and administrators.
• The promise lies in what teachers do instructionally, by design, each day to educate “whole” children.
• Together we can transform our classrooms, schools and communities so they all are significant learning environments for our children and grandchildren.

The National Governors’ Association reported that for every 100 students entering 9th grade, 82 will not complete a bachelor’s degree within six years or an associate’s Degree within three years.2 Which of our children and grandchildren will they be? What will society be like with a citizenship that lacks the intellectual stamina to write our literature, paint out masterpieces, compose our symphonies, and invent creative solutions to our pressing environmental and human problems? The list of opportunities and challenges is endless; we need to develop the talent of every child to his/her highest potential for a better future.

Can we envision?

Can we envision schools where all teachers teach our students through powerful learning experiences ~ all of the time? Can we envision a state that defines proficiency in terms of students creating, innovating, collaborating, thinking critically, solving problems, leading, and being personally and socially responsible?

Currently we have some classrooms and schools where teachers design instruction so students develop these new proficiencies. Teachers who impress their communities with their ability to teach in powerful ways are sometimes selected as Teacher of the Year and we feature their accomplishments as models for other teachers to emulate. There are many teachers who deserve to be so recognized. Parents want to ensure that their children get those teachers. Often parents are willing to spend lots of influence to get the best teacher for their sons and daughters. They advocate in whatever way they can within the system.

If the system does not respond to their influence, some parents are willing to spend their money to ensure their children have those experiences. They move into communities that have a reputation for “good” schools. When parents conclude that only a private school can offer their child those experiences, they work hard to ensure that their children are accepted to those schools. However, what happens to the students whose parents do not have influence or the money to secure powerful learning experiences for their children? Does that condition explain why 82 out of 100 high school freshmen never receive a college degree?

Wisdom in Anaheim

At the ASCD International Conference in March 2007, Ben Donenberg, Shakespeare Festival LA Producing Artistic Director, interviewed young people from South Central Los Angeles to find out what