Director, Innovation, and Data Strategy

My current work at CAEP allows me to combine learnings from my experiences as a teacher, teacher educator, mentor, artist, researcher, and student

Prior to CAEP, I was a teacher because I wanted to be able to motivate and engage learners as much as I wanted to be in a position that motivated, engaged, and challenged me.  Teaching is truly an art and a science. My teaching experiences in Baltimore’s “high-needs” schools allowed me to witness amazing talent, determination, and curiosity, but they also showed me the realities of teaching. My students my first year were the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders of Lombard Middle School, which was a Title I and formerly persistently dangerous school. Many students were below grade level and had very poor reading and writing skills.  Lombard had not had an art teacher for two years prior to my acceptance of the position and many of the students had little or no exposure to art in elementary school. My training to become a teacher and most of the professional development once in the classroom was disconnected from evidence. Throughout my career, I have increasingly witnessed the research-poor context in educator preparation causing an isolated experience in the way educators are prepared and hired.

Pursuing educational research was a way to make an impact and work to be part of the solution of many of the problems I have witnessed within education. Despite the well-documented importance of teachers to students’ achievement and the deleterious consequences to student outcomes of hiring ineffective teachers, there has been little progress to link teacher quality with factors observable at the time of hire. Responding to both the lack of evidence linking existing screening procedures to student outcomes and the demonstrated need for evidence-based screening processes, my dissertation research explored the relationship of competencies and beliefs likely to predict a teacher's retention and effectiveness to hiring outcomes in an urban district. Considerable variation in the preparedness of the sample was observed, highlighting the importance of effective educator preparation provider (EPP) assessment and hiring practices to distinguish among applicants who may look similar on typical observables. 

I have always sought to challenge myself and gain complementary tools to test my hypotheses and logically question current conjectures lacking evidence in education, which have left me, students, or teachers in holes or hole jumping. In fact, the possibilities of leveraging accreditation to contribute to filling in research gaps and connecting policy to practices in hopes of a more illuminating strata attracted me to CAEP. Now I have the opportunity to combine my passions as the inaugural Director of Research, Innovation, and Data Strategy. I joined CAEP shortly after its inception and release of the 2013 Standards and goal to raise the bar in educator preparation.  Given the newness of both the position and the organization, my role involves shaping and implementing an ambitious agenda to advance educator preparation research. 

A typical archaeological dig is a hit or miss venture consisting of an educated guess to determine a spot to dig; once the trench is exhausted, another is begun.  As a Fulbright Teacher Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens in 2009, I viewed the fruits and the evidence of many of these types of excavations.  Walking on monuments I had only previously seen as small two-dimensional rectangles in books, I had been willing to accept the traditional excavation process as part of the profession, until we reached Corinth (it was here, where I witnessed a different excavation technique.)  Corinth’s new technique utilized a method that allows a more cohesive vision of a single era, providing a more detailed and accurate portrayal of conditions in that era.  

The concept of single contact open air excavation seems obvious in retrospect—just like strategic design (backwards planning for lessons) makes sense—but is hard to see when new teachers are struggling to plan while deep in the trenches of day by day efforts. Similarly, making educator preparation an evidence-based profession is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities for our field and my work at CAEP. One of the most exciting upcoming projects I have the occasion to partner with the field on is launching a Study of the Impact of CAEP’s Standards. Look out for forthcoming details on how the Human Resources Research Organization is planning to capture the impact the CAEP Standards have on the practices and policies of EPPs; skills, knowledge, and behaviors of EPP completers; P-12 students; and field of educator preparation. The results will be used to more effectively (1) elucidate the layers and context by providing examples of providers’ successful transitions to CAEP, and (2) feed results into CAEP’s own quality assurance system to improve our effectiveness and the evidence base for the next generation of CAEP Standards. 

(Please contact me if you have related work you would like to share or want to collaborate toward connecting the labyrinths of trenches toward a more meaningful layer.)