Collaboration is the foundation of successful partnerships at the program, unit, and institutional levels. The unit is engaged in many successful formal and informal collaborative efforts that provide unique learning opportunities for candidates and faculty members that ultimately benefit student learning.
St. Cloud State University, in partnership with St. Cloud School District, is one of 23 school-university partnerships that are members of the National Network of Educational Renewal (NNER), founded by John Goodlad in 1985. The goal of NNER is to “improve simultaneously the quality of P-12 education for thoughtful and informed participation in a democracy and quality of preparation of educators for our schools.” The NNER emphasizes strong partnerships of university faculty in the arts, sciences, and education with public school educators. SCSU’s partnership involves the Colleges of Education, Science and Engineering, Fine Arts and Humanities, and the St. Cloud School District. Annual partnership goals and activities are planned and implemented each year.
The Professional Development Consortium (PDC) is a group representing 11 school districts and staff from the Teacher Quality Enhancement (TQE) initiative that meets monthly to discuss the professional development needs of area teachers. The PDC was established to give area school districts the opportunity to come together on a regular basis to share information about staff development initiatives in their respective districts and to explore further and understand the needs of area educators. Many of the member districts are relatively small in size, and as such, are better able to mobilize resources for meaningful and relevant professional development offerings when working together rather than acting in isolation. The group collaboratively developed an online needs assessment that was completed by over 1500 teachers this year.Based on the data collected, an annual professional development conference is sponsored by St. Cloud State University through the TQE initiative. The data collected from this survey are also disaggregated for use by individual districts in the planning of building and district initiatives. In aggregate form, the data are used to plan the three or four main strands of the professional development conference. Over 850 teachers in our service region have attended the annual conference in the last three years.
The North Branch Project is a collaborative effort between North Branch School District, Anoka Ramsey Community College, and St. Cloud State University to provide opportunities for candidates to complete teacher education programs, master’s degrees, and licensure endorsements at the school district setting. Faculty members work in partnership with school faculty and staff to plan and deliver needed programs. The collaboration has a long and rich history and several departments within the unit have been actively involved.
A Professional Learning Community (PLC) focused on induction and mentoring was developed as a collaborative effort several years ago as part of the Teacher Quality Enhancement (TQE) initiative. The PLC began their work by studying research and best practices related to building strong mentorship practices for new teachers. Five districts participated in the initial process; 17 districts are actively participating during the 2007-2008 academic year. The PLC meets on a regular basis to discuss mentoring activities, examine data, and develop and plan training sessions. Extensive data about the professional needs of first year teachers has been collected and disseminated in the professional community.
The Urban Teacher Education Partnership (UTEP) is a collaborative effort with our six sister institutions in the MnSCU System and the St. Paul Public Schools. The project provides an opportunity for our candidates to engage in field and clinical experiences in the St. Paul Public Schools, providing candidates with a diverse urban experience. A second component of the UTEP initiative is the partnership with our leadership development project from the Office of Cultural Diversity whereby middle school students from Humboldt Junior High visit St. Cloud State University for a day of leadership activities and a chance to promote the concept of “going to college.”
Finally, at the institutional level, a variety of collaborative efforts exist. For example, for the past several years, the Teacher Quality Enhancement Initiative has sponsored co-teaching opportunities whereby faculty members across departments co-teach a class; faculty members can also collaborate with school partners to co-teach. Another example of collaboration is the Teacher Education Council (TEC), consisting of representatives from the different colleges across campus. Members of the TEC meet on a systematic basis to discuss issues related to teacher preparation. The Teacher Education Council meets on a monthly basis and is facilitated by the Assessment Director.
Summary: Collaboration with the professional education community serves as the foundation for our work within the unit. Significant progress has been made in increasing the collaboration with school partners related to professional development through such activities as the Teacher Quality Enhancement initiatives and the efforts related to National Network of Educational Renewal (NNER).