Point Person: Our Q&A with David Chard on classroom leaders

David Chard, dean of SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, talks about education schools and the role they play in producing strong teachers.

How do schools get stronger classroom leaders? That's a big question swirling around the education world today, and the answers often come back to the quality of educational schools. Points turned to David Chard, dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University, to hear about education schools and the role they play in producing strong teachers. His school is involved in a project preparing leaders for West Dallas schools. Here is an excerpt of his conversation. 

A debate's going on about why there aren't enough good teachers. So, let's start with this question: Why don't education schools turn out stronger classroom leaders?

First, let me say that we have many good teachers that are working in some of the finest schools you could find anywhere. But we need to prepare teachers to also work in challenging contexts. In the past, teaching attracted many of our brightest college students because women, in particular, had few other options. Today, many of these women go into other fields. We just don't have as many of the strongest women going into teaching.

In addition, teaching is a difficult job. Many times, the best source of teachers has been children from families where one or more parents taught school. Today, those children know how hard it is to teach and choose other paths.

So, this is a pipeline issue?

Yes. People, and particularly women, have other options.

The condition of our K-12 schools is another issue. Our system was built as an efficiency model. We were spending the least amount to get as many kids into the system as possible with few expectations. Now, we expect an effectiveness model. We expect world-class outcomes. But we haven't changed the structure of our schools. For example, we still send one teacher in to teach 30 or more students. And we haven't changed the subjects that are taught.

SMU's education school is involved with schools in West Dallas. What's that about?

We are generally supporting the mayor's initiative to improve access to education in West Dallas. That includes access to better public schools, as well as public charter and private schools. We will work with schools in West Dallas on planning projects and securing grants. We are still waiting for the community to coalesce around a plan.

We have also developed a partnership with the Teaching Trust to launch the Education Entrepreneur Center. The focus of the center, which will be at SMU, will be to prepare leaders of West Dallas schools, as well as other schools. Participants will get the tools and experience they need for effective urban school leadership.

Read the complete Q & A, which was conducted by Dallas Morning News editorial columnist William McKenzie.

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