School of Education - Accreditation Self-Study Report

Standard 1: Continuous Improvement

Highlights of innovative change resulting from program and unit data are provided below:

  • Revised admission criteria. In response to evidence that our teacher candidates were struggling to successfully pass required licensure examinations, changes were made to the teacher education admission criteria, raising the minimum cumulative grade point average to 2.75 and requiring a minimum score on basic skills exams (Exhibits 1.4.c.17a; 1.4.c.17b).
  •  Support for MTLE Preparation. Low MTLE passing rates have resulted in changes to what used to be the Praxis Center and is now the MTLE Center. This center is staffed during the academic year with graduate assistants, under the direction of the Student Relations Coordinator. In addition to drop-in services for teacher candidates, the MTLE Center has added workshops aimed specifically at reviewing skills and test strategies to help candidates pass the Basic Skills examinations (Exhibit 1.4.m.6a; 1.4.m.6b). Cross-disciplinary work was completed in 2012 with faculty from Elementary Education, Science and Social Studies to better understand the issues facing candidates taking the Elementary Education subtest 3. The subsequent changes resulted in increased passing rates on this subtest. The State of Minnesota has also recently passed legislation that is aimed at alleviating the pressure on our candidates of having only one means by which to demonstrate mastery of basic skills (Exhibit 1.4.m.1). The implementation of this new legislation will further impact our overall passing rates.
  • Orientation to Teacher Education. There are a number of new initiatives and assessments for which candidates have felt unprepared. As a result of feedback to this effect, an orientation to teacher education has been developed (Exhibit 1.4.m.2). At this orientation, candidates are welcomed into teacher education and are provided critical information regarding the program expectations.
  • Classroom upgrades. With the generous donation of an SCSU alumna, classroom upgrades have been targeted to methods classrooms which house elementary science and special education courses. Other funds have been used to upgrade the elementary literacy classroom. These classroom facilities have been made accessible, student-friendly and relevant for the way students learn. Tables are movable to allow for collaborative activities. The literacy classroom features white-board tables that allow students to work in small groups and share their work with the larger group (Exhibit 1.4.m.7).
  • Graduate Travel Funds. A portion of the gift from the same donor was specifically set aside to assist graduate students with travel funds to present (or co-present) their research at regional, state or national conferences. This fund helps encourage graduate research and dissemination of that work (Exhibit 1.4.m.4).
  • Instructional Technology Discovery Lab. SCSU candidates have consistently rated integration of technology throughout their programs as needing improvement. In May, 2010 the School of Education wrote a grant request to the Morgan Family Foundation for the development of an Instructional Technology Discovery Lab (ITDL). The ITDL is a physical space in which teacher candidates can learn to creatively engage P-12 students using a variety of emerging and existing technologies (e.g. smart boards, assistive technology devices, iPhones, GPS equipment, Individual Response systems, digital video, Web 2.0 tools, and other interactive technology). The ITDL also serves as a place where faculty, cooperating teachers, school media specialists, and teacher candidates can explore instructional possibilities and practices using both state of the art and common technologies. It is a “safe” environment in which faculty can learn without feeling the need to have all the answers. Faculty from our Information Media department oversee the graduate assistants in the ITDL and have also created and hosted a number of informal technology-related learning opportunities for faculty, staff and students. There is a great deal of collaboration with P-12 practitioners in the design and delivery of these workshops (Exhibits 1.4.m.5a; 1.4.m.5b).
  • ED 460. In response to data that our candidates were not adequately prepared to provide adequate and meaningful instruction to English Language Learners (ELL) in their classrooms, a curricular change was initiated, adding a course with significant ELL focus to the professional education sequence. ED 460, Teaching English Language Learners in K-12, provides theory, methods and sound instructional strategies (Exhibit 1.4.m.8).
  • Teacher Preparation Initiative. St. Cloud State University, along with 13 other institutions that prepare teachers, has been supported by the Bush Foundation to study and make improvements to teacher preparation in a three-state region. The Teacher Preparation Initiative (TPI) has facilitated collaboration between university and P-12 faculty and staff working to enhance program quality and preparation of new teachers. All proposals emanating from a TPI work group are grounded in research and supported by data. Working groups were established around the main components of the initiative: Recruitment, Preparation, Placement/Employment, Support, Assessment and Integration of Technology. Some of the accomplishments of this collaborative work include:
    • Common Educational Foundation Core (Exhibit 1.4.l.1). The Prepare working group has developed a proposal to fundamentally change the preparation program at SCSU by developing a common educational foundation core for all candidates. While some of the existing foundation courses are included in the new core, there will be a greater emphasis on early field experiences in a wider variety of grade levels, understanding differences in learners, understanding the unit’s conceptual framework and professional dispositions. Themes that run through the proposed foundation include context for learning, teacher identity, social justice, differentiation/individualization, teacher efficacy and teaching and learning in the 21st Century, all of which are incorporated in our conceptual framework.
    • Support and Induction. The Support working group has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at supporting new teachers for their first three years of teaching. “Ready, Set, Teach: Tools for Success” is a new teacher workshop first piloted in 2012-13. The workshop occurs before teacher orientation and is designed to give new teachers increased professional confidence going into their first year of teaching (Exhibits 1.4.l.2; 1.4.l.3). The Support Working Group has also developed and hosts four new teacher workshops per year, bringing new teachers together for an evening of timely information, support and networking. Topics for professional development are researched and follow the phases that new teachers typically go through (New Teacher Center, 1990). Common to all new teacher workshops are networking, differentiation, facilitation by SCSU Faculty and P-12 veteran teachers, engagement in the professional learning, and infusion of technology. The overall goals of our New Teacher Workshops align with New Teacher Center principles: enhance student achievement, accelerate teacher effectiveness, improve teacher retention, strengthen school leadership, and address educational inequities (Exhibits 1.4.l.4; 1.4.l.5; 1.4.l.6).
    • Future Educator Clubs. With an eye to recruiting candidates into high need areas of teaching and changing the image of teaching as a profession, we helped our six P-12 partner districts launch Future Educator Clubs in their districts. At the same time, we have established a club on our campus, which brings together future teachers from every discipline with a common identity, as we build a sense of community. Our campus club collaborates with the high school clubs throughout the year (Exhibit 1.4.m.3).
    • Program-level mini-grants. Through Bush Foundation funding, TPI offered programs and departments the opportunity to apply for a mini-grant to make programmatic change grounded in data and best practice. Eight licensure areas have been funded to take on this collaborative work, resulting in substantive change (Exhibit 1.4.l.7).
    • Teacher Education Unit. While SCSU has always had an informal teacher education unit, the work being done through the Teacher Preparation Initiative has drawn attention to the benefits we could reap if we reaffirmed or formalized this structure. After a series of conversations, meetings and clarification, the proposal made in spring 2014 was adopted and will be implemented in fall 2014. In this model, a K-12 and Secondary Education Interdisciplinary Program will be created and will exist alongside the existing departments of Child and Family Studies, Special Education, Information Media and Teacher Development (Exhibit 1.4.l.8).
Program Approval. In spring 2014, the unit submitted 36 programs to the Minnesota Board of Teaching for extensive review. They will be approved at the September 2014 Board meeting (Exhibit 1.4.a.1).