Woodrow Wilson Foundation, MIT Join for Teaching/Leadership Academy


The Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning, a union of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is planning a program that will allow teachers to receive master’s degrees in teaching and school leadership beginning in 2017, with programs in science and math. Caroline Porter of The Wall Street Journal reports that the curriculum will be open-source and will include research for freely sharing with teacher-training schools nationwide.

“Our greatest dream is to combine the attributes of West Point, offering an excellent education to prepare the most talented for careers in education, and Bell Laboratories, advancing the frontiers of policy and practice in teacher and school leader education,” said Arthur Levine, the president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Levine has been critical of the current teacher training model, calling it out of date and in need of a serious overhaul. The US Education Department came up with guidelines for teacher training in November so that federal funding could be combined with measurements to improve teaching programs nationwide.

From 2004 to 2012, education programs’ enrollment dropped by approximately 10%, according to federal data, and teacher shortages are occurring in areas like special education, math, and science. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish a national teacher survey this summer, and the findings of the yet-to-be shared study include that 35% of educators say they are likely to leave the teaching profession in the next five years, and only 41% felt positive about the state of the teaching profession at this time in the US.

The new curriculum will be offered through a competency-based program provided largely by online courses and, at the same time, it will perform research on original approaches to teacher education and school leadership, according to Goldie Blumenstyk of The Chronicle of Education. Levine says this is an opportunity to put into practice the ideas he advocated during his ten-year role as public critic and to use the information learned at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s teaching fellowship program, which has worked with state policy leaders and 28 schools of education over the past eight years of his presidency.

MIT has shown an interest in becoming more connected with elementary and secondary education. The institute also wants to be involved with competency-based teaching, blended learning, and simulations. Developing new roles for professors and creating new paths of certification are also part of MIT’s future focus.

Another report from the American Institutes for Research found that experts want to see the field of teacher preparation become increasingly more selective within its candidate pool and make licensing more rigorous. The report also noted that education programs need to be more focused on hands-on models along with more effectual mentoring.

The academy will be an incubator and an innovation lab for finding what works — and why — when preparing teachers and leaders in education. That means promoting new technologies, developing curricula, and conducting research in the area of teacher training, while focusing on teacher support in science, technology, engineering, and math for students from pre-K to their senior year.

Some of those providing initial support for the academy include: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Amgen Foundation, Simons Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation Board of Trustees also gave $2 million in support of the venture.