At the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), a twelve-month master's program at
Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California,
theory and practice don't merely coexist; they
actively and continually inform each other.
Not only does coursework overlap with clinical
work (homework assignments for the Curriculum and
Instruction course, for instance, often include planning
the next lesson in a real classroom), but STEP
students also benefit from devoted professionals
whose job is to make those connections seamless.
Cooperating teachers at partnering K-12
schools, STEP faculty, and STEP supervisors
make up a trio of mentors for the program's
inductees. Between weekly meetings,
constant feedback, and continual communication
and reflection, "you couldn't
fall through the cracks here, even if you
wanted to," explains Rachel Lotan, STEP's
Students begin fieldwork on the first day
and continue daily throughout the year, but
"we're not just put in the water and told to swim,"
says Pablo Aguilera, a 2007-08 candidate. "They
ease us into it."
Candidates' responsibilities slowly build up over
the academic year and, in partnership with a cooperating
teacher, culminate in a full-time takeover of his or her classroom.
Students continually learn by doing. "Honestly, I think
you can make people go to school for five years and tell them to
read any number of books, but they won't really learn anything
until they're in an actual classroom," Aguilera says.
At STEP, a commitment to serving traditionally underserved
urban student populations, as well as an emphasis on personalized
learning and education-reform initiatives, is paramount. Program
leaders aim to prepare not only excellent teachers but also agents of
change in education. STEP, therefore, makes sure to cultivate these
ideals within its growing network of reform-oriented professional-development
schools, where candidates do their real-world training.
These teachers share a unified vision for urban-school reform, including an
emphasis on community connections and the importance of smaller schools.
So far, prospects look good. For example, graduation and college-entrance
rates at the East Palo Alto Academy, a charter high school
operated by Stanford Schools Corporation and one of the local
professional-development schools for STEP students, have increased
The unity of vision draws STEP students to each other, as
well. Surveys of graduates reveal that more than 90 percent
maintain contact with individuals in their cohort, even
years later. Many graduates seek employment alongside
other graduates, and continue their professional
development in partnership with STEP.
More than 50 percent of cooperating teachers
are also STEP graduates. All these
factors makes the program's cheery
mantra, "Once a STEPie, always a
STEPie," a fitting one.