School of Education - Accreditation Self-Study Report

Standard 3: Target Level Performance

St. Cloud State University is performing at the target level on Standard 3a, Collaboration between Unit and School Partners. We have formalized partnerships with six area school districts (St. Cloud, Sartell-St. Stephen, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Monticello, Holdingford and ROCORI) through the Teacher Preparation Initiative (TPI). While we have always had close connections with area schools, the TPI funding has facilitated the integration of P-12 teachers and administrators in the work of reviewing, transforming and delivering our teacher preparation programs leading to deeper, more focused partnerships. P-12 partners actively participate in every TPI working group and focused team, offering critical feedback, valuable insights and “real world” experience as we reflect on the needs of P-12 learners and our role in developing the teachers to meet those needs. Examples of ways in which we collaborate with school partners follow.

  • Conceptual Framework - The conceptual framework subcommittee included one P-12 administrator and two university faculty members (one education, one content). As a working group of the Teacher Education Advisory Committee (TEAC), the conceptual framework subcommittee brought all recommendations and revisions to the larger body, which included additional P-12 members, for discussion and endorsement.
  • Reviewing Teacher Preparation Programs - P-12 teachers have been an integral part of the TPI “Prepare Working Group”, charged with: Forming a P-16 partnership to examine and align curriculum at all levels; Investigating authentic field experiences beginning with students’ first semester on campus; and Exploring 21st Century knowledge, and skills needed for 21st Century learning. As a result of the research, reflection and leadership of this group, a number of major changes have been or are in the process of being implemented.
    • Enhanced Field Experience Proposal was developed by the Prepare Working Group after extensive study of the existing field experiences in each program, with varied greatly in both length and connection to coursework. The resulting recommendation of this working group provides a framework for field experiences that will better integrate them with methods courses or other relevant coursework, contain specific, measurable outcomes, focus intentionally on authentic assessment and involve multiple opportunities for individual and programmatic feedback (Exhibit 3.4.a.1). This work has been the cornerstone of many of the advances that have led us to target level performance.
    • Mini-grant opportunities have been made available through TPI, to each program/licensure area to bring together an appropriate mix of faculty, students, staff and P-12 teachers to review programs and recommend appropriate change. A requirement of this funding was to involve P-12 teachers with licensure in the area being reviewed, who have been cooperating teachers. It was also required that faculty outside the program area be involved (Exhibit 3.4.i.1). Mini-grants have been provided to: Early Childhood Education, Information Media, Languages and Culture, Vocal and Instrumental Music, Science Education, Social Studies, Special Education, Teacher Development, Teaching English as a Second Language and Visual Arts (Exhibit 3.4.i.2).
    • After thoroughly reviewing the Minnesota Standards of Effective practice and the existing professional education sequence, a group of dedicated faculty and P-12 colleagues made a recommendation for an Educational Foundation Core. The new core would incorporate many existing courses, but would provide a new focus for all candidates regardless of licensure area, on Social Justice, Differentiation, Context for Learning, Teacher Identity and Efficacy, and Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century. These areas of emphasis align with the MN Standards of Effective Practice, the Conceptual Framework and the InTASC Standards. Course requirements, field experiences and candidate outcomes have been articulated for each semester. Candidates would be required to create a portfolio that would consist of evidence of outcome mastery (Exhibit 3.4.i.7).
    • The TPI Prepare Working Group has also proposed enhanced criteria and expectations for clinical faculty that will go through the approval/implementation process in 2014-15 (Exhibit 3.4.c.2).
  • Mutual participation in Professional Development - A P-16 work group met over the course of seven months to plan and deliver the first common professional development day in the St. Cloud area. Educational leaders in six school districts and the teacher education unit committed to a common day of shared learning, held on June 11, 2014. (Exhibits 3.4.i.3; 3.4.i.4; 3.4.i.5). The day featured key note speaker Kathy Flaminio, who spoke about the practice of mindfulness and social emotional learning, led participants to discover the impact of stress on both educators and students and develop practical interventions to enhance overall well-being. Following the key note address, participants attended their choice of two break-out sessions in the morning and two in the afternoon. Sessions covered a wide range of interests and grade levels. Approximately 125 participants attended and rated the day as very helpful in their professional development. The overall mean quality rating was 3.48 (of 4), with 93% viewing the presentations as of moderate to high quality; the commensurate results for “utility” were 3.38 (of 4), with 87%, viewing utility as moderate to high. The five highest-rated sessions for quality seemed to reflect skills that could be applied to the classroom (Exhibit 3.4.i.6).

Each semester SCSU also hosts a Professional Development Day for teacher candidates in their final semester of student teaching. This full-day experience is possible through collaboration with partner districts. Break-out sessions feature P-12 and university experts and are tailored to the needs of new teachers. Topics cover a wide range of self-identified candidate interests, including classroom management strategies, positive reinforcement, integration and creative use of technology in teaching and learning, meeting the needs of diverse students, and stress management (Exhibits 3.4.a.4; 3.4.a.5; 3.4.a.6; 3.4.a.7; 3.4.a.8; 3.4.a.9).

  • Shared Expertise to Support Candidate Learning - Through the co-teaching in student teaching model, our candidates are supported by both the supervising faculty and the cooperating teacher during their clinical experience. In co-teaching, cooperating teachers share their expertise with candidates through co-planning and joint reflection. Candidates are able to develop their skills at the elbow of a mentor teacher, receiving support and guidance throughout the process.
  • Joint determination of placements - St. Cloud State University is fortunate to have a joint powers agreement in place with the St. Cloud Area School District for a teacher on special assignment to work directly with the Office of Clinical Experiences on the placement and support of candidates in our largest local school district (Exhibit 3.4.a.3).

There are elements of standard 3b on which we have also achieved the Target level of performance.

  • Field experiences at SCSU are designed to provide candidates with a variety of field experience settings in which they can apply and reflect on their knowledge, skills and dispositions. The Office of Clinical Experiences ensures that candidates preparing for licensure have at least one experience at each level (pre-primary, elementary, middle, or secondary) within the scope of their license. Field experiences happen in both school and community settings, with a variety of age ranges. Candidates also have at least one placement in a diverse setting during their program, providing them the opportunity to develop and reflect on their ability to differentiate instruction so all students learn.
  • During field experiences, candidates are observed, and observe others. Field experience evaluations are provided by cooperating teachers in many of the longer field experiences. These observations and assessments help guide the candidate’s development and provide the university faculty critical information about strengths and areas for growth.