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"Your student teachers are more likely to have an experience that is easier and less connected with the needs of at-risk learners than they should," he said.
Full-year internships, in which student teachers can work in Title I school classrooms under the supervision of experienced teachers, are a good idea, he said. "That’s an area where we could improve."
Breaking down Utah test scores
Percent of Utah students with scores considered proficient on 2012 Criterion-Referenced Tests in math.
Not low income and not learning English: 80.7 percent
Low income: 59.6 percent
Learning English: 43.2 percent
Not low income and not learning English: 77.7 percent
Low income: 66.4 percent
Learning English: 36.1 percent
Not low income and not learning English: 65.8 percent
Low income: 53.4 percent
Learning English: 25 percent
Not low income and not learning English: 61.2
Low income: 46.4 percent
Learning English: 27.6 percent
Not low income and not learning English: 56.9 percent
Low income: 39 percent
Learning English: 18.9 percent
Not low income and not learning English: 54.1 percent
Low income: 40.8 percent
Learning English: 21.1 percent
‘Grow your own’ » Withers poked the Legislature for failing to invest in mentoring that would go beyond giving novice teachers the name of an experienced teacher with the same portfolio.
"Those first five years are critical," he said, a time for new teachers to learn coping skills and build good habits.
He urged the lawmakers to fund a three-year pilot study his district is conducting on mentoring.
The Salt Lake District, he says, brings in college and business consultants for short-term teacher training, and has teachers work together in professional learning communities.
While the district recruits out of state, it also has a Teaching Academy to encourage students to become teachers themselves. It enrolls high-schoolers in introductory college education courses and connects the best to scholarships.
"If you don’t grow your own in highly impacted schools," Withers said, "you’re not going to find teachers of color and ethnic diversity that you need as role models in your schools."
More than 62 percent of students in the Salt Lake District come from low-income homes and nearly 37 percent are still learning English, Withers said. Statewide, 11 percent live in low-income homes and 14.2 percent are English learners, he said.
Chad Carpenter, human resources director for the Ogden School District, said the district turns to teachers from Michigan and other diverse areas to augment hires from Utah colleges. The Michigan students get yearlong internships in urban settings.
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