Reform and Change in the Land of Steady Habits
Over the past several years, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) has engaged in work with state and national partners to transform Connecticut’s system for the approval and oversight of educator preparation provider (EPP) programs. Since 2013, CEEDAR has been an integral partner in this ongoing work, supporting Connecticut EPP and partner districts around two specific reform efforts to date.
From 2013 to 2017, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and their district partners developed and piloted a methodology for analyzing and reforming teacher preparation curricula and clinical experiences to ensure that teacher candidates receive training in evidence-based practices in literacy (reading and writing) and culturally responsive teaching. This important work culminated in a guidance document titled Developing Quality Fieldwork Experiences for Teacher Candidates: A Planning Guide for Educator Preparation Programs and District Partners, which served as the cornerstone for scale up efforts during 2017-2018 involving five additional Connecticut EPPs—Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), Fairfield University, Sacred Heart University, University of Bridgeport and Western Connecticut State University (WCSU)—and since for all Connecticut EPPs and partner districts.
During 2018-2021, Connecticut continued to focus on supporting EPPs and districts in creating and sustaining powerful and impactful partnerships, now capitalizing on two critical initiatives that connect pre-service training to beginning teacher induction. edTPA, a national, performance-based, subject-specific assessment for measuring pedagogical knowledge and skills, is an EPP program completion requirement in Connecticut for teacher candidates during student teaching. The Connecticut Teacher and Education Mentoring (TEAM) program is a unique, two-year induction program for new teachers that includes mentorship and professional development. Both edTPA and TEAM performance requirements align with those described in the Connecticut Common Core of Teaching (CCT), providing a through line from pre-service to induction and the opportunity for Connecticut EPP faculty and district educators to coalesce around a common set of training expectations. Connecticut EPP and district partnership teams collaborated on developing and piloting a data-driven decision methodology using edTPA and TEAM data, and other EPP and district data, for identifying strengths and areas for improvement for teachers in training, from pre-service to in-service induction. This work culminated in a toolkit of resources, consisting of gap analysis tools, an action planning tool, and the Pro-Gap tool, which teacher candidates use with EPP faculty mentors to identify specific areas for improvement based on edTPA results to be worked on with mentors in the TEAM program.
While Connecticut has seen considerable progress with reform efforts, its CEEDAR journey has not been without challenges. As busy as EPP faculty and district educators are, finding time for consistent partner team planning and problem solving can be challenging. Additionally, coordinating and implementing scaling up efforts requires patience and tenacity. Finally, COVID-19 threw a definite curve ball into the work, requiring EPP/district work teams to modify clinical experience guidelines and expectations to support teacher candidates and districts grappling with how to facilitate student learning in a virtual learning environment. Dr. Joan Nicoll-Senft, Professor of Special Education and Chair of the Department of Special Education and Interventions at CCSU, has been involved in Connecticut’s CEEDAR work since the very beginning in 2013. Joan likes to invoke the famous Winston Churchill quote: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Indeed, with the CEEDAR Center’s support, the enthusiastic EPP faculty and district educators involved in Connecticut’s CEEDAR work continue to forge ahead and embrace the baby steps of innovation and change, even when due to unexpected circumstances. For more information please visit Connecticut’s CEEDAR webpage.