Standard 4: Aspect A
The program is committed to and invests in strengthening and improving the education profession and the P-20 education system. Each program’s context (or multiple contexts) provides particular opportunities to engage the field’s shared challenges and to foster and support innovation. Engagement with critical issues is essential and must be contextualized. Sharing results of contextualized engagement and innovation supports the field’s collective effort to address education’s most pressing challenges through improvement and innovation.
Leveraging University-District Partnerships to Strengthen Teacher Preparation
Scholars, experts, and school districts are calling for transformative change in how teachers are prepared. These stakeholders advocate for programs built around a strong clinical practice model in partnership with school districts (Grossman, 2010; National Research Council, 2010). The National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR, 2015) identified three necessary shifts for moving toward a clinically orientated teacher preparation program: 1) Restructure clinical experiences, emphasizing competency-based assessments aligned to district and/or state measures; 2) Revise courses to include more theory-to-practice connections and opportunities for simulations and rehearsals; and 3) Build authentic and substantive collaborations with schools and school districts.
The Multiple Subject Credential Program aims to transform its teacher preparation program by leveraging University-District Partnerships to Strengthen Teacher Preparation. Federal, state, and foundation grants often in partnership with our district partners awarded the program over fourteen million to support the program’s transformation over the past seven years (Department of Education Teacher Quality Partnership, S.D. Bechtel Foundation New Generation of Educator Initiative and Improvement Research Fellowship, and California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Teacher Residency Grant).
Revisions to local and national accreditation standards, input from local district leadership as well as cutting-edge, educational research serve as guides to the evolution of our teacher education program over time. Various program pathways emerged over the years as a way to offer teacher candidates pathways to teaching that best fit their needs/interests/schedules. Additionally, new pathways were developed as a way to shift from an “application of theory model” (Zeichner, 2010, p. 91) toward a more clinically-oriented, “practice-based teacher education” model (Schneider Kavanagh & Danielson, 2020).
The impetus for our program model transformation occurred during university-district partnership meetings when leadership from the largest district in our region indicated that our program completers struggled with application. Moreover, we were also well aware of national conversations centered on how K-12 systems were not closing achievement gaps nor eliminating opportunity gaps pointed to the critical importance of consistency in teacher quality (Darling-Hammond, 2010). Increasing disparities in achievement and opportunities between racialized students prompt scholars to refer to these gaps as major civil rights issues of the 21st Century (Ladson-Billings, 2006). One of the most effective ways to dismantle persistent opportunity-achievement gaps in education is to improve teacher quality (Carter & Welner, 2013), which is arguably the area in which educator preparation programs have the most influence in regard to addressing this educational problem. Fresno State’s response was to develop and sustain a preparation program that addresses teacher effectiveness with a focus on preparing our students to become exemplary in their ability to promote K-6 student learning.
During these program redesign and pathway transitions an important realization emerged. Our program began to take seriously the idea that the local school districts are the long-term end-user of the teacher preparation process. For when we only have our student teachers for one to two years in our program, the school districts will have them for a 25+ year career, hopefully. This helped us put systems in place to more routinely seek input from the district’s leadership as well as processes including data sharing agreements needed to review data with them. Inclusive, collaborative partnership work became a priority that led us to seriously consider how to co-construct with our district partners a common vision for teacher preparation that ensures that our recruitment plans, curriculum, and clinical practice experiences complement the needs of our local K-12 districts.
With initial funding from the Teacher Quality Partnership 2013 federal grant line, we were able to launch our first teacher residency program. We began to offer the majority of our teacher residents a stipend as well as a way to earn the Master’s Degree efficiently. This approach to teacher education requires deep, authentic relationships with local school districts in order to have a transformative impact on educator preparation quality (Holen & Yunk, 2014). Our university-district teacher residency partnerships engage in collaboration built on mutual trust by:
- honoring the strengths of local districts as a “funds of knowledge” essential to enriching the academic content of the residency program (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005);
- developing a common vision for teacher preparation and development;
- emphasizing competency-based formative assessments aligned to district and/or state standards;
- revising courses to include more theory-to-practice connections and opportunities for simulations and rehearsals of skills; and
- utilizing data to test change ideas for continuous improvement (Bryk, Gomez, Grunow, & LeMahieu, 2015).
What started as a cohort of 25 residents with one district partner has grown into five teacher residency programs with eight district partners and the county office of education providing support to 102 residents currently. As a result of the teacher residency program pathways, partnerships with district leadership teams have become much more trusting, intimate, and distributed. Ongoing collaborations with district leadership over time have contributed to the building of genuine trust between our program and the district leadership teams. During ongoing, regular, and frequent interactions, we used the National Center for Teacher Residencies templates and documents to drive conversations about pedagogy, equity, vision, outcomes, and data. These templates have greatly assisted in moving these conversations forward and helping leadership teams to move toward understanding, if not consensus. Shared vision and outcomes are essential and must be clarified on an ongoing basis. District partners bring readings to share with university personnel and these shared readings have become bases for intimate discussions about pedagogy and curriculum. Often, these conversations reveal differences in how we define and operationalize concepts, what we value, our biases, and experiences.
Although these conversations can sometimes be uncomfortable or difficult, they are absolutely necessary to move forward and avoid stagnation. When exact alignment cannot be reached, we identify complementary understandings and practices among the partners that deepens our belief that various perspectives add value to the partnership. District leaders and site administrators honestly share problems of practice, with the understanding that part of the mission of our program is to be a part of the solution to these problems of practice. In this way, we can continue to move forward together. As research and evidence are continuously changing what we know, these ongoing meeting spaces continuously help shape and mold the highly contextualized work we do with each respective district. These relationships have helped us to understand and support the internal initiatives of each district, which differ: trauma-informed practices, STEM, bilingual education, special education, universal design for learning, and culturally sustaining practices. Having a residency theme based on district initiatives allows each unique district system or infrastructure to tailor the residency experience for the district’s specific context. Alignment with ongoing district initiatives also allows for overlapping professional development for pre-service and in-service teachers, for both novice and veteran teachers. This builds a more cohesive and connected experience for our residents as well as our mentor teachers and site administrators.
District partners seem pleased with the outcomes of the residencies and the ongoing evolution of the residency models. Partner stakeholders, including district leadership, school site administrators, mentor teachers, and coaches, have expressed positive experiences with the residencies. Building these positive experiences has been largely the role of the Professor-in-Residence (PIR) and Teacher-in-Residence (TIR) team. These 0.25-.5 Full Time Equivalent positions are the crux of the residency program. The role of the PIR-TIR team has been continuously refined and clarified over time. The PIR-TIR team is largely responsible for the day-to-day quality of the residency year experience and for creating an inviting, safe, and collaborative culture within the residency: “We [Sanger Unified School District] have learned that the lines of communication are very important among the stakeholders. Principals, residents, PIR, TIR, and college professors need to communicate often. The PIR and the TIR worked very hard to communicate often with each other and to keep everyone ‘in the loop.’ The more communication the smoother the program ran. The PIR implemented a weekly newsletter that went to all stakeholders and was reported to be very beneficial for all.” (-Sanger TIR). The success of the pilot newsletter has encouraged all residency programs to implement a weekly newsletter.
Building and maintaining partnership relationships with districts is time intensive and challenging. It is easy to lose sight of the importance of ongoing regular meetings, perhaps in different stakeholder configurations for different purposes. Because of the large amount of time and the abstract nature of the work, partnership work can easily be undervalued. Similarly, because of the unseen nature of the work, it is easily taken for granted and not maintained. The Multiple Subject Credential Program aims to develop additional ways to measure partnership collaborative health over time in order to prevent stagnation and erosion of the strength of the partnerships.
Documenting Existing Work:
Partnership Advisory Board 1: President's Council on Teacher Education
Individuals involved: CSUF President; CSUF Provost; CSUF Kremen Dean and Associate Dean; Kremen Chairs; Kremen Teacher Credential Coordinators; Hank Gutierrez; Assistant Superintendent, Educational Program Services, FCSS Teresa Morales; FUSD Teacher Development Administrator; Debbie Parra; Clovis Unified Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Assessment; District Partner Superintendents; Development Director
How often meet: Quarterly
Group’s purpose/function: To develop a comprehensive mission and vision for teacher preparation in the Central Valley; Discuss new initiatives and provide updates on grants and special projects.
Examples of specific challenge/identified need: Two recent examples: 1) Regional hiring needs for bilingual teachers; 2) Teacher retention issues and hiring needs of the rural districts of Western Fresno County
Discussion of steps taken to address challenge/identified need: Two recent steps: 1) Superintendents recommit to plans to further develop Dual Language Immersion Programs in their respective districts. Redesign of the Bilingual Authorization Program from a five course to three course program to better align with the other 22 CSU campus programs and to reduce barriers for credential candidates interested in becoming bilingual teachers. 2) Development and launch of the Rural Teacher Residency Partnership.
Partnership/Advisory Board 2: CSU Continuous Improvement Collaborative
Individuals involved: Membership List
How often meet: 5 times per academic year
Group’s purpose/function: The purpose of the collaborative is for those engaged in campus improvement efforts to: Leverage connection and collaboration between campuses as they pursue their improvement work; Analyze system-wide data together and discuss implications for their campuses’ improvement efforts; Serve as thought partners to the Chancellor's Office and CSU Educator Quality Center as they launch a variety of projects to support campuses in using data for improvement; Receive support from the CO and each other in their work; Draw connections between efforts happening on campuses and at the CO
Examples of specific challenge/identified need: Two recent examples of problems of practice among partners in the collaborative are the focus of the meetings: 1) Establishing an improvement culture for the CSU 2) Innovation in Teacher Residency Models Evidence: Agenda Slidedeck
Discussion of steps taken to address challenge/identified need: Two recent steps: 1) Continuous Improvement Community members provided feedback on EdQ data dashboard and follow up on the revisions were discussed especially with being able to disaggregate the data and compare the data to our local TK-12 school contexts 2) Fresno State’s Multiple Subject Credential Coordinator co-developed a plan to share information about our residency innovations: 2-semester Residency Model and impact on FAST data; teacher retention data at 3 years of service. CIC members asked questions and the presenter received feedback.
Partnership/Advisory Board 3: Fresno Unified School District-University Partnership Meeting
Individuals involved: Fresno Unified -Kim Mecum, Chief Academic Officer, Teresa Morales-Young, Teacher Development Administrator, Julie Severns, Leadership Development Administrator, Paul Idsvoog, Chief Executive Human Resources / Labor Relations, Kim Collins, Human Resources/Labor Relations and Recruitment Administrator, Felicia Quarles-Treadwell, Director of Human Resources, Carlos Castillo, Instructional Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Learning; Fresno Pacific University -Linda Hoff Director of Teacher Education, Robin Perry, Single Subject and Teacher Residency Coordinator; CSU Fresno - Randy Yerrick, Dean and Director of Teacher Education; Jenelle Parker-Pitt, Associate Dean; Juliet Wahleithner, Assistant Director of Teacher Education; Heather Horsley, Multiple Subject Program and Teacher Residency Partnership Coordinator, Felipe Mercado, Coordinator of Clinical Practice, Rohit Mehta, Professor-in-Residence; National University - Heather Michel, Teacher Residency Coordinator.
How often meet: Quarterly
Group’s purpose/function: To create a shared mission and vision for teacher preparation that meets the needs of the local school districts in the Central Valley; Alignment of instruction and clinical practice; Transparent communication; Collaborative effort
Examples of specific challenge/identified need: Two recent examples: 1) number of new teachers hired, principal feedback on new hire
performance 2) Responding to COVID-19 and clinical practice.
Discussion of steps taken to address challenge/identified need: Two recent steps: 1) conduct classroom observations of recent hires (pre-COVID) and debrief about what a principal looks for in their new hires to inform adjustments to the preparation program 2) Develop plan for virtual student teaching and how to provide student teachers to access the curriculum and Teams when teaching virtually and most recently the development of a communication plan to student teachers regarding the vaccine/testing mandate to continue with in-person student teaching opportunities. Developed protocol for communication reviews before sending out to student teachers.
Articulating Plans for Future Stakeholder Involvement:
Collaborate with Kremen Alumni Board to sustain relationship building with graduates of the Multiple Subject Credential Program
How often will you meet? Quarterly
How will you ensure all individuals have a voice? Review representation of alumni on the board to see if there is representation from the Multiple Subject Credential Program and if not actively recruit members to the board from the program; Work with district partners to establish a reliable directory of our program completers hired by the district to make sure they are included in surveys and even invitations.
What data might you together examine to inform your work? Recruitment and hiring data related to our problem of practice of educator diversity gap