Academic journal article Education

Overhauling Teacher Education: It Takes a Collaborative

Academic journal article Education

Overhauling Teacher Education: It Takes a Collaborative

Article excerpt

Introduction

This success story began in 1991 when a newly hired dean of education and department head of elementary education sat in the office of a local school superintendent talking over a cup of coffee about a facility the two agencies were sharing. Conversation drifted into a series of"what if" questions. What if we could work together on other projects? What if we could develop preservice and inservice teacher education programs that were modeled after those prescribed by the Carnegie Forum (1956), the Holmes Group (1956), Goodlad (1990), and others advocating stronger relationships between schools and universities? What if we could build an ideal professional development school program?

That "what if" session resulted one year in a university-school partnership known later as the Northeast Texas Center for Professional Development and Technology (NETCPDT) (Stetson, E., et al, 1992). By 1994 the teacher education program designed by this collaborative endeavor won two national awards as an exemplary model for training teaching teachers and administrators. Today the NETCPDT involves over 400 presetvice teachers who spend a full year in 80 professional development schools in 10 different school districts. The contrast between the old and new teacher education programs is stark. Roles of cooperating teachers, university faculty, and preservice teachers have changed radically, and few components of the traditional program can be found in the new one. This article explains how this breakthrough change in teacher education in Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMU-C) came about. We will review the background that provides the need for change, the new curriculum, organizational and governance structure, and lessons we have learned from four years of implementation.

Background and Need for Change

Although partnerships between universities and K-12 schools have existed for years, these relationships are best described as "cooperative" rather than "collaborative." The university unilaterally determines the curriculum, experiences, and expectations, and K-12 schools serve as the laboratory where preservice teachers practice what they learned at the university.

In the last few years, however, university-school relations have become increasingly strained. There were charges and counter charges of lost confidence and credibility on both sides. Schools felt that teacher education programs were outdated, too theoretical, slow to change with the times, staffed with faculty who would not be competent in public schools, and producing graduates who were not equipped for today's complex and demanding classrooms. Universities criticized schools for having too many ineffective teachers, lacking in the use of research-supported curricula, ranking and sorting of students, placing too much emphasis on test scores, and teaching to the test. This bruised relationship resulted in public schools finding non-university alternatives to certify teachers, providing more of their own staff development programs in lieu of graduate education, and being .more vocal in their criticism of university teacher education programs.

As that superintendent, dean, and department head sat in the office that day in 1991, they recognized that the pictures painted about teacher education at the national level also applied to their own university and school district. They also knew time was running out and patience was running thin among state legislatures and tax payers who were demanding better schools, more effective teachers, and higher test scores. But what was so wrong? TAMU-C had trained teachers for the profession for over 100 years, relations with local school districts were always good, and the majority of graduates found teaching positions rather easily. However, it didn't take long to come up with reasons why change was imperative:

1. Preservice curriculum was not keeping pace with the rapidly changing roles and responsibilities of classroom teachers. …

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