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Meet the Alliance Member: Leah Breen

Leah Breen Alliance Member Picture

By Cora Goldston
May 24, 2017

Leah Breen is a member of MAITP and serves as the director of the Office of Professional Preparation Services at the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). Breen is no stranger to REL Midwest–she was a member of the Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance under the previous contract. At MDE, the Office of Professional Preparation Services supports teachers at every stage of their careers, but, in recent years, questions about the state's staffing pipeline came to the forefront.

Says Breen, "We wanted to collect data and understand the research around teachers entering and exiting the profession. Since I started with MDE, the department's language has shifted from saying that we have a 'surplus' of teachers to saying that we have a 'critical shortage' of teachers. Currently, these statements are only supported by anecdotal language, and now there's a real push to find data to support the conversation around teachers."

For Michigan, the language regarding the teacher workforce had real policy implications. "Some policy was based on the 'surplus' statement, like more certification requirements," says Breen. "This changed the number of people entering the teaching profession." Breen notes that national conversations related to teacher shortages also have an impact at the state level.

Breen hopes that participating in MAITP will help answer questions about the teacher pipeline. "Our K–12 and higher education partners on the alliance helped us form the original research questions, and they're individuals who can provide wide perspectives–from urban and rural schools, small and large districts." In working with REL Midwest, MDE can connect with other states that are examining their teacher pipelines. "As it turns out, a lot of the topics we selected were hot topics–recruitment and retention are highly publicized. We're closely connected to Midwest partners, who are having many of the same issues across the region," says Breen.

MDE has begun to answer some teacher pipeline questions on its own. Although it is difficult to track teachers who leave the state, MDE has found ways to capture some interstate mobility by tracking teachers who move back to Michigan. In addition, MDE is exploring alternative teaching program entry exams, alternate certification programs, and stronger higher education partnerships to recruit more high–quality teachers. MDE also is exploring ways to support current teachers. "Globally, we realize that induction and mentoring are key parts of retaining teachers. We can focus on strengthening these programs so teachers know that they're supported."

When not working hard at MDE, Breen is a voracious reader. In 2016, she read 124 books, and she hopes to read just as many in 2017.

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Author(s) Information

Cora Goldston Staff Picture

Cora Goldston

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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