Within the education system, the most important lever to improve outcomes for disadvantaged students is outstanding teachers.*
The reality however, is that kids who need great teachers the most, are the least likely to get them and keep them. Teacher graduates in the top quartile of academic test scores are far less likely to accept positions in low SES schools. And because low SES schools can be challenging environments, these teachers are retained for much shorter periods of time.
The Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools (ETDS) project tackles this issue head on by creating a pathway for the highest achieving pre-service teachers to be fully prepared for their roles within low SES schools.
“… she could have gone to a multitude of leafy-green schools. She chose my school. Big call, tough call. All my teachers are nearly retiring and I need good graduates to take their place.”
Jo Lampert and Bruce Burnett founded the ETDS project at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2008. SVA believes that the ETDS project is a “Bright Spot” that creates outstanding outcomes for students in disadvantaged communities. SVA worked with QUT to create the National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools (NETDS) project. SVA acted as a catalyst and enabler by developing a plan to replicate the approach in six more Australian universities and helping to secure funding to support the project.
How does it work?
The ETDS falls into five distinct phases:
1. Identifying the cohort: Academic results are used as a starting point for selection. Other factors (knowledge, skills, disposition, life experiences, and willingness to teach in Low SES schools) are also used to recruit ideal candidates.
2. Modifying the curriculum: In their third year of studies, participants in ETDS undertake a socio-cultural foundation unit where they participate as a separate cohort with a specific focus on disadvantage and schooling.
3. Gaining field experience: ETDS pre-service teachers are placed in low SES schools (that are formal partners in the project). They are amply supported through the practicum, with each allocated a participating mentor or supervising teacher.
4. Placement: Together with government and partner schools, ETDS helps to place the graduates within schools that need them.
5. Longitudinal tracking of progress: Data is being collected in order to refine approaches and to develop an even more effective curriculum to prepare ETDS teachers.
Download the National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools fact sheet for more information (PDF, 592KB).
In 2013 SVA helped secure $2 million in funding from the Origin Foundation, to allow the program to be rolled out across Australia, creating the National Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools program. With an additional six universities to deliver the program, more than 200 teachers per annum will be specifically prepared to teach in low SES schools.