Barbara Miner’s article “Teacher Quality: Transforming Teacher Education” in the current issue of Rethinking Schools tells the compelling tale of UCLA’s College of Education seeking to better promote social justice and better prepare pre-service and in-service teachers to serve students in low-SES schools. Center X sounds like an outstanding program, particularly because of its success in helping mentor and retain teachers in the classroom.

In the article, Miner discusses the issue of “defining success” for a project like Center X. She writes:

Along with the never-ending question of how to define social justice is the equally problematic issue of defining success. Is it in the number of graduates still teaching a decade after graduating? A rise in student test scores? Case studies on improved practice? Most difficult, how do you develop a program that not only trains individual teachers but also helps transform entire schools and, if dreams were realities, an entire district? And what do you do about variables beyond your control such as poverty, crime, drugs, and the revolving door of teachers, administrators, and superintendents in urban districts, burned out by trying to do the impossible?

Multiple measures must be utilized to define success, because it is not a monolithic concept or ideal. Test scores alone cannot suffice, as many legislators seem to believe. Miner’s struggle to define success in the case of Center X should mirror our own struggles to define educational success in our own contexts. We need to do it, we cannot ignore it, but we should not acquiesce to the pressure to define it only in terms of tests.

I was interested to learn this past week that High Tech High Albuquerque uses college retention after four years as a measure of its success, rather than just college admission rates. Educational quality which goes beyond test score results may seem like a messy and ambiguous thing to define, but I argue it is something everyone can quickly connect to when asked to tell teacher impact stories.

Storytelling really is one of the main ways I think we understand educational success and quality. That is another reason to think the case for digital storytelling is compelling.

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