In Urban School District, Cultural Understanding Goes Far

The Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) in Texas, subject of a recent post on the Center for Teaching Quality‘s blog, was awarded the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education, the nation’s largest education prize awarded to the most improved urban district. While BISD serves one of the poorest populations in America, students in all grades outperform those in similar districts statewide in reading and math. The district attributes its success to targeted teacher preparation and professional development. In partnership with the University of Texas, the district implements teacher recruitment and training programs that emphasize how to teach English-language learners, an understanding of students’ adverse circumstances, and local teacher recruitment. The results are a high rate of teacher retention and rising student achievement. Between 2004 and 2007, Brownsville reduced the gap between low-income students and Texas’ non-low-income student average by nine percentage points in high school reading.

4 Responses to “In Urban School District, Cultural Understanding Goes Far”

  1. What is striking about the (apparent) Brownsville success story is that the district relies primarily (if not solely) on local recruits and the local university to find and develop talent. When it comes to “who to recruit,” high test scores of potential teachers who attended competitive colleges do not seem to be the coin of the realm. It will be important to unpack how the Brownsville approach fits with other more well-publicized approaches to recruit, prepare, and retain teachers and the value each adds to the district SMHC efforts. School reform does not need to be either-or – it can be and/both.

  2. One of the SMHC cases, Long Beach, had an experience similar to that of Brownsville — it recruited nearly all of its teachers and administrators from the local university (Cal State Long Beach) and partnered with the university to ensure that what new teachers learned about instruction in their preservice training was aligned with the district’s approach to instruction. One the other hand, that strategy has not worked with many other urban districts, some the subject of SMHC cases, and they have partnered with many organizations who recruit top talent and work with that talent and the school district to get the initial license; those districts also then need to invest heavily in induction and ongoing professional development to make sure all teachers acquire the instructional expertise and classroom management skills needed to be successful in the classroom. Many of the latter districts also have been disappointed with the content knowledge and clinical skills of teachers trained in local universities and had not been successful in getting those universities to change their programs, and thus began to look elsewhere for talent.
    SMHC is neutral with respect to the strategies urban districts select to recruit top teacher and principal talent, advise districts to evaluate the effectiveness of all pipelines for teacher and principal talent, and also provide large resources for induction and mentoring for all new teachers to make sure that whatever the pathway into teaching, that there are policies and programs provided by the district that helps all new recruits learn the clinical expertise needed to be effective teachers.

  3. I thought we were into this for the pure technical thrill-)

  4. […] In Urban School District, Cultural Understanding Goes Far […]