School of Education Offices
II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The St. Cloud Teacher Quality Enhancement partnership will create lasting improvements in the preparation of teachers in Central Minnesota. The initial months of activity have focused on studying and sharing the theoretical underpinnings of the three major initiatives we are undertaking. In sharing our vision and work plan with other educators, the TQE staff has made 32 presentations to school superintendents, school administrative teams, PreK-12 faculty, university faculty and local school boards to inform colleagues of the opportunities available to them through this initiative. The ground-work has been laid for successful implementation and each initiative is moving forward.
The St. Cloud Teacher Quality Enhancement partnership focuses on three major initiatives to improve the preparation of teachers and student achievement throughout Central Minnesota. These three initiatives target improvements at four levels – PreK-12 students, teacher candidates, PreK-12 faculty and university faculty.
§ Co-teaching impacts pre-service teachers, university faculty, PreK-12 faculty and PreK-12 students.
§ Mentoring impacts new teachers and PreK-12 faculty.
§ Professional Development impacts PreK-12 faculty, pre-service teachers and university faculty.
The majority of our efforts in the first six months have been in preparing to implement co-teaching at three levels: the university level, P-12 level and undergraduate level.
University Level Co-Teaching: Three co-teaching specialists were selected from a number of applications. These specialists are university faculty representing the different departments in the College of Education that have student teaching – Teacher Development, Child and Family Studies and Special Education. The co-teaching specialists developed application criteria for the university level co-teaching opportunities and disseminated these among university faculty. Three co-teaching pairs were selected from the applications: two special education methods courses and one human relations course which is required for all teacher candidates. Each pair included one university faculty member and one P-12 faculty member. Co-teachers all attended an initial workshop where they were able to study the seven models of co-teaching and explore together how co-teaching could best be implemented in their classroom. The rationale behind university level co-teaching is to expose as many future teachers as possible to the co-teaching model, to better prepare them to be classroom collaborators themselves. Over 100 university students completed pre and post questionnaires and were overwhelmingly positive about their experience. (Mid term evaluation is attached, Final evaluation will be forwarded upon receipt from external evaluator.) The co-teaching specialists have completed a rubric for scoring future applications, and another three pairs of co-teachers have been selected for Fall of 2004 – one Child and Family Studies, one Special Education and one Human Relations.
P-12 Level Co-Teaching: We had initially hoped to have teacher candidates co-teaching with cooperating teachers in the Spring of 2004. It quickly became apparent however, that for this initiative to be successfully implemented, more time would have to be spent in providing in-service training and full-day workshops to participants. The response from cooperating teachers in the public school systems has been outstanding, with 131 teachers expressing interest in participating. (Our original goal was 60). These teachers will all attend a full day workshop in either June or August to learn more about the methods and strategies of co-teaching, and will return for a half-day session in the fall which will be done in conjunction with their teacher candidate. Measurement methods have been more clearly defined and we have been granted permission to use the Woodcock-Johnson III Research Edition assessments to measure changes in academic achievement. The first cohort of teacher candidates being placed in co-teaching situations will occur in September, 2004.
Undergraduate Level Co-Teaching: Again, it is our hope to expose as many teacher candidates to co-teaching as possible through this project. Undergraduate level co-teaching provides opportunities for content area departments (Math, Language Arts, Science, Physical Education, etc.) to develop a co-teaching initiative where their upper level students co-teach an entry level course with the university faculty. Environmental and Technology Studies has been doing this for a number of years, and has lent their expertise to developing a framework for other departments. In Fall, 2004 the Math Skill Lab courses will be co-taught.
This piece of the TQE initiative has not received as much focus in the first six months of implementation. The Co-Director from District 742 and the Professional Development/ Mentoring Specialist from the university held a meeting of mentors from the St. Cloud School District to build a base of understanding as to what currently exists and what role TQE could play in enhancing the mentoring experience for teachers in their first three years. The Co-Director from the St. Cloud School district will lead this initiative and has a meeting scheduled this summer to bring other mentoring experts from surrounding districts together to begin the discussion of how to all work together.
One of the major accomplishments in the area of mentoring has been in redefining the role of the TQE Leaders and the cadre of Building Contacts that will be developed. Rather than provide enhanced learning and mentorship opportunities to a few people every year, the research indicates that lasting change is more likely to be sustained if there is a committed and knowledgeable core or educators in each district and in each school who can serve as the conduit between new teachers, cooperating teachers and the university. The focus of enhancing content and pedagogical knowledge for teachers remains, but the means to achieve that focus has been improved.
Much time has been spent in the early months of this project in studying the research in the area of professional development for educators. It is clear from the research that one-shot in-service opportunities is not the most effective way of achieving professional growth and development. In response to the literature, the St. Cloud TQE partnership has asked each of the cooperating school districts to provide 1 to 3 professional development specialists to come together as a consortium to study professional learning communities and discuss the implementation of learning communities in their context. The consortium will meet on a regular basis, to be determined by members’ determination of need, and will share information about ongoing professional development efforts in their respective districts.
In addition to facilitating the consortium, the TQE initiative will pilot a professional learning community, which will be established with a group of teachers and SCSU faculty who will spend a year reading, meeting, and learning together. The topics for discussion will be determined by the group. Personal reflective journals will document the growth of those involved. We are also exploring partnering with two local districts on their delivery of the American Federation of Teachers professional development courses.