Thursday, May 29, 2014

Quality Teacher Preparation

The following post is from Dr. Ann Elisabeth Larson, Vice Dean and Professor, Dean-elect of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville.

The Kentucky Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (KACTE) a state affiliate of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is pleased to have received an invitation and this opportunity from the Prichard Committee to post a blog about educator preparation, particularly teacher preparation, in Kentucky. 

KACTE members represent 28 public and private higher education institutions across the Commonwealth that prepare university-based certified educators in traditional and alternative route programs. KACTE member institutions have a long history of collaboration, with a common goal of offering accredited university-based programs at the state and/or the state and national levels and preparing high quality educators for Kentucky's P-12 schools. We work closely with Kentucky's state agencies, the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB); the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE); and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). 

As well, KACTE has ongoing collaborations with other state groups and associations, including the Prichard Committee, and members of our association, including through the leadership of the executive board, are actively engaged in Kentucky's reform efforts to improve the preparation of teachers, other school professionals, principals and superintendents.

A number of recent statewide reform initiatives in collaboration with state agency and association partners have been at the forefront of our work. Some of these projects, in collaboration with state agencies, include: Senate Bill 1, Unbridled Learning (2009), Common Core and College and Career Standards' professional development for higher education faculty who teach courses in education and arts and sciences; co-teaching training, based on St. Cloud State University's model, for cooperating teachers who mentor teacher candidates; university supervisor training for those supervising teacher candidates in P-12 field and clinical experiences; and design and implementation, with funding from the Council on Postsecondary Education, of a clinical model of teacher preparation similar to a medical model of physician preparation (three universities received significant, competitive grant funding to design and implement replicable clinical context teacher preparation models - University of Louisville; Western Kentucky University; and Eastern Kentucky University - in collaboration with P-12 district partners).

Also, KACTE has collaborated to support individual higher education institutions to implement new and more rigorous admission to teacher education requirements (as outlined, among other principles for reform in teacher preparation, in Our Possibility, Our Promise: Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession , Council of Chief State School Officers, 2012) and new student teaching regulations promulgated by the EPSB; will soon focus on enhancing literacy and reading across the curriculum for teacher candidates in elementary, middle and secondary program levels; will be ramping up to respond to and infuse new Council on Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) standards and contribute to program and accreditation reviews for educator preparation by CAEP and EPSB - all of this is occurring as Kentucky moves ahead of the nation in many regards in educator preparation reform. 

KACTE has also been at the forefront of continuing to explore the development and implementation in collecting, using and reporting data for program and continuous improvement aligned with accreditations and examining ways to access more P-12 student learning data needed by teacher candidates to build knowledge and skills in developing and managing data-driven instruction.

KACTE also focuses on the uses and implementation of new technology in educator preparation. Our association has been providing feedback through our Kentucky Instructional Technology in Educator Preparation (K-ITEP) committee to the EPSB and is continuing a dialogue on the accuracy, cleanliness and usefulness of data collected and presented. Additionally, KACTE is leading efforts in higher education to connect teacher candidates and higher education faculty to CIITS (Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System) and Infinite Campus as the Kentucky Department of Education expects teachers and administrators to use and access these systems to be at the cutting edge and forefront of supporting P-12 student learning and achievement. Ethics training and a focus on development and monitoring of positive dispositions demonstrated through teacher candidates and educators in advanced roles as exemplified in practice are also priorities in our work in educator preparation in Kentucky. Our education faculty are former P-12 practitioners who typically hold doctorates in their respective fields, are trained in research methodology and are active scholars.

Teacher quality, particularly as it relates to the preparation of new teachers, has drawn widespread national and state attention in recent years. With data indicating the growing problem of teacher attrition, especially among early career teachers (Cochran-Smith, 2004; Darling-Hammond, 2003; Ingersoll, 2001), the need for a new model to educate teachers in the service of P-12 student learning has never been more compelling. Guided by principles detailed in a 2010 report of NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel, current reform in teacher education focuses on the role of clinical preparation and partnerships between higher education and P-12 to prepare teachers for improved student learning. KACTE is at the forefront of this model in Kentucky through teacher education reform in higher education. Clinical preparation of new teachers includes the following design principles identified by NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel Report: a focus on P-12 student learning; a mutually beneficial and reciprocal partnership; the integration of clinical preparation for teacher candidates throughout the program, beginning early in the program and concluding with a practicum/clinical experience/student teaching; continuous assessment of teacher candidate progress; strong content or disciplinary preparation; teacher candidate learning within a professional community of practice; rigorous selection of clinical educators in the schools who serve as mentors and cooperating teachers; designated and supported clinical sites which have the support and investment of the school district and the university; cutting edge technology applications to support P-12 student learning and teachers' and teacher candidates' practice; data collection and analysis for data-informed decision making and program improvement; and development, support and nurturing of the partnership among the district, school and the university.

Current reform in teacher education focuses on the role of clinical preparation and partnerships in preparing teachers for improved student learning. The transformation of teacher education through clinical partnerships form the organizing structure within which all stakeholders commit to the recruitment, admission, preparation, assessment and continuing development of teachers who effectively enable the learning of all students in all contexts. KACTE recognizes that preparation within partnerships is a central tenet both in the design principles and the five major recommendations of NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel Report (2010). These new types of partnerships in which we pool resources and human capital can lead us to shape the new normal in a way that increases P-12 student learning.

New standards, priorities and reform in policy and practice will shape and be shaped by clinically rich, effective forms of teacher preparation programs. Dr. James Cibulka, president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), reflected on the transformation of teacher education: "One of the major themes of NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel ReportTransforming Teacher Education: A National Strategy for Preparing Effective Teachers, is the need for new types of partnerships between higher education and P-12 in the service of P-12 student learning (Cibulka, 2010)." These clinical partnerships form the organizing structure within which all stakeholders commit to the recruitment, admission, preparation, assessment and continuing development of teachers who effectively enable the learning of all students in all contexts. Cibulka advised, "Preparation within partnerships is a central tenet both in the design principles and the five major recommendations of the Panel."

At the University of Louisville, our clinical model of preparing elementary and middle grade teachers not only connects to the current efforts to transform teaching as outlined in the Blue Ribbon Panel Report, but also builds from the foundational efforts associated with Professional Development Schools (PDSs). As noted in NCATE's Standards for Professional Development Schools, established over a decade ago (NCATE, 2001), professional development schools are innovative institutions formed through partnerships between professional education programs and P-12 schools. Their mission is the professional preparation of candidates, faculty development, inquiry directed at the improvement of practice and enhanced student learning (p. 1). This mission resonates with the overarching goals and activities of our current clinical model of teacher preparation at the University of Louisville as we have recently expanded its application from an elementary setting to that of a middle school.

UofL's Signature Partnership Initiative (SPI). The purpose of the University of Louisville's Signature Partnership Initiative ( SPI) is to work with community agencies and organizations to enhance the education, health, economic and social conditions of West Louisville. The focus on education has engaged the College of Education and Human Development (and other units on campus) with identified SPI schools. Of particular significance has been our work with J. B. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, our University's designated lab school. The clinical model developed in partnership with J. B. Atkinson Academy has resulted in: on-site university classes; a faculty liaison to support candidates' development; high quality and rigorous early field and clinical placements to provide authentic learning experiences for teacher candidates; collaboratively developed professional development to invoke change aimed at improved student achievement; opportunities for teacher growth such as a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) cohort, the Louisville Writing Project (LWP), the Kentucky Reading Project (KRP); numerous collaborative research projects; and participation by teacher candidates and experienced teachers on funded grant projects designed to boost student learning.

KACTE recognizes that by bringing together theory, practice, preparation and application in the clinical setting of a P-12 school, all stakeholders gain new knowledge and skills aimed at improved P-12 student learning. Teacher candidates have authentic teaching opportunities with excellent and dedicated teachers; teachers have professional development opportunities to develop innovative "best practice" teaching strategies; and inquiry and data based decision-making guide instructional and program improvement in both the school and university settings. The need for new types of partnerships between higher education and P-12 schools to educate teachers in the service of P-12 student learning has never been more compelling. As identified in NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel Report, Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education noted, "The report of NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel marks the most sweeping recommendations for reforming the accreditation of teacher preparation programs in the more than century-long history of our nation's education schools." 

KACTE stands ready and is committed to reforms and initiatives shared in this blog post, including a clinical model of teacher preparation. We look forward to continued collaboration with Kentucky's state agencies - EPSB, CPE, and KDE - and with our numerous and key partners at community and state levels to ensure a high quality educator for every student, every day in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. And, finally, we invite interested observers to follow our efforts and provide feedback on our higher education work to reform educator preparation in Kentucky.

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