Baylor Teacher Education Partnership In National Spotlight
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Baylor University’s innovative teacher education and research partnership with Waco’s Hillcrest Professional Development School could soon become the national norm, as new standards designed to revolutionize the clinical preparation of teachers were announced today (Oct. 16) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Today’s news conference featured comments by Baylor School of Education Dean Robert Yinger, who served on the standards revision committee for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Hillcrest PDS was one of the 18 sites nationwide that participated in a three-year field test to determine the new guidelines.
Professional Development Schools (PDSs) are partnerships between professional teacher education programs and P-12 schools, with a mission to prepare teacher candidates fully and professionally for the classroom, develop faculty at all levels, improve practices and enhance student learning. Since 1993, Baylor’s School of Education, Waco ISD and Hillcrest PDS have been working together to provide quality field-based teacher education courses as part of an intensive, yearlong experience for future teachers.
Yinger was in the nation’s capital to represent the hundreds of colleges and universities that are engaged in PDS work.
“We now know from both cognitive science and educational research that we need intense reality-driven clinical experiences for the preparation of our future teachers,” said Yinger, who also serves as president of The Holmes Partnership, a group that created the PDS concept in the mid-1980s. “We know the best way to do that is in partnership with schools and school districts who are concerned in the same way we are about teacher quality. The important part is that all the stakeholders are at the table.”
The new standards detail the teaching profession’s expectations for PDSs and are looked to as a way to enhance teacher quality, address the teacher shortage and to develop “caring, qualified and competent” teachers. The five standards that characterize PDSs are:
* Learning Community – adults and children learn best in the context of practice
* Accountability and Quality Assurance – examining practices and establishing outcome goals
* Collaboration – partners engaging in joint work and the implementation of the PDS mission
* Diversity and Equity – ensuring equitable opportunities to learn
* Structures, Resources and Roles – articulating the PDS mission to the university, school district and other constituencies and establishing governing structures for support
The standards were developed for several reasons, according to NCATE’s research. Standards bring rigor to the concept of PDSs, so that the potential will not be lost; support PDS partnerships as they develop; provide feedback to PDS partners about their work; assist policy makers at the national, state and local levels who want to create incentives and support for PDSs; and provide a critical framework for conducting and evaluating research.
PDSs are important, the NCATE report notes, because they bring together two strategies on reforming teacher education programs – standards-based reform and school restructuring and attention to teacher quality.
CLOSING THE GAP
“For a long time, educators have sought ways for P-12 and professional education to effectively work together to the benefit of both sectors,” said project director Marsha Levine. “Educators in both schools and universities point to the gap between research and practice, and to the poor articulation between professional preparation and the real world of school reform. PDSs are settings in which new practitioners and P-12 and university faculty can learn to meet the challenges of 21st century education together, because the expertise and resources of both university and the schools support them.”
One of the outcomes of the new standards has focused on increasing the retention of teachers. Research has shown that, nationally, for every 10 teachers who were certified by a school of education in a traditional program, only six or seven actually went on to teach. Of those, only three were still in the classroom after five years. A teacher who leaves the profession during these “induction” years costs taxpayers in excess of $50,000, according to the State Board of Educator Certification.
“We have strong indications,” said NCATE president Arthur Wise, “that these standards provide better preparation for new teachers, increase teacher retention as school districts and particularly city schools struggle to staff themselves, increase student achievement, provide more effective supervision of teacher candidates and provide a promising strategy for improving low-performing schools.”
Alain Humphrey and Darlene Bolfing are Baylor graduates who each completed the yearlong internship process at Hillcrest PDS. Now full-time teachers at the school, they said the professional development they received through the partnership allowed them to transition smoothly into the entire educational process.
“I had so much more knowledge of the classroom in all areas – discipline, parent relationships, resources,” said Humphrey, who spent the 1995-96 school year as a teaching intern at Hillcrest PDS. “I always had someone here to watch me or if I had questions, I could turn to them for guidance.”
Bolfing interned at Hillcrest PDS two years earlier, recalling the 1994-95 school year as “incredible, because I saw the beginning of the school year, all the little steps to get a classroom going, how to set up discipline and then how to close out a classroom at the end of the year.”
Currently, one-third of accredited teacher preparation institutions are involved in professional development school training. Maryland and Louisiana have recently enacted policy that requires all public teacher preparation institutions to initiate PDSs, and policies encouraging PDSs have been implemented in Georgia, South Carolina and New Jersey.
Since 1993, the Baylor School of Education has gradually expanded its PDS network to more than 15 campuses in six independent school districts, including Waco, China Spring, La Vega, Groesbeck, Lorena, Robinson, Killeen, Connally and Midway, one alternative school and Baylor’s Piper Child Development Center. In addition, the School of Education has long-term relationships with Fort Worth ISD, Spring ISD and Conroe ISD for teacher education field experiences, student teaching and continuing education for teachers.
As the new standards are evaluated across the country, Yinger said the fundamental shift to the PDS concept has educators, including those at Baylor, re-thinking the investments they have made in teacher education.
“We are projecting a three-fold increase in our investment in clinical preparation at Baylor as we move to have all of our students involved in PDSs,” he said. “The message is that we now know how to create effective Professional Development Schools through standards that are based on documented successful practices.”