Creating Jaw-Droppingly Effective Rookie Teachers
Beginning in 2000, a number of new graduate schools of education (nGSEs) have been established in the U.S. in response to increasing calls for more effective teachers. Among these are programs affiliated with “No Excuses”-style charter schools, which are focused on closing the achievement gap in urban K-12 schools. Teacher education programs at nGSEs affiliated with “No Excuses” schools were designed to prepare teachers specifically for these schools. Although these nGSEs have been applauded by the press and by education reform advocates, there has been almost no independent research about them. Systematic study of the goals, practices and beliefs of teacher educators and candidates at these programs is necessary to understand the impact “No Excuses”-affiliated nGSEs may have on teacher preparation for urban schools. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to analyze teacher preparation from insiders’ perspectives at the Sposato Graduate School of Education, which is connected to the Match Education charter management organization. For this study, the Sposato GSE was regarded as an illustrative and an instrumental case of the nGSE phenomenon. Drawing on multiple data sources and using qualitative data analysis methods, this dissertation found the Sposato mission was to create “jaw-droppingly effective rookie teachers,” and it argues this mission was in large part realized due to the remarkable coherence of the program’s design, curriculum, and vision. However, this dissertation also argues the success of the Sposato teacher education program came at a cost. My analysis shows that Sposato leaders and faculty members zeroed in almost exclusively on two goals: (1) implementing a technical, moves-based epistemology of teaching in their teacher preparation curriculum; and (2) socializing teachers into a gradualist and technically rational vision of equity and justice consistent with the goals of “No Excuses” schools. This study has important implications for the practice of urban teacher preparation, research into the nGSE phenomenon, and policies related to improving teacher education program quality and the goal of closing the achievement gap.