When Michigan was selected as a CEEDAR intensive technical assistance (TA) state in 2015, its State Leadership Team (SLT) had a clear vision for the reform it wanted to accomplish: to improve the academic achievement and college and career readiness of the lowest performing K-12 students. To achieve this goal, the Michigan Department of Education (MDOE) and the CEEDAR institutions of higher education (IHE) focused their work on aligning existing state literacy initiatives and supporting more deliberate collaboration between K-12 schools, educator preparation programs, and the MDOE. The CEEDAR SLT includes representatives from the MDOE, Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Northern Michigan University (NMU), Western Michigan University (WMU), and Siena Heights University (SHU).
The SLT established several goals, including the following:
- Ensuring that faculty in educator preparation programs (EPPs) and K-12 educators have the knowledge and skills to effectively implement evidence-based practices (EBPs) and interventions. In the last year, this goal has encompassed high-leverage practices (HLPs) that novice educators should know and be able to do.
- Strengthening local education agency (LEA) partnerships with IHEs and aligning teacher preparation with LEA expectations.
- Supporting the implementation of a framework of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS).
NMU, one of the partner IHEs, has made significant progress in addressing these goals. Dr. Lubig, associate dean for teacher education and director of education at the School of Education and Leadership, has established systems to ensure continuing communication and collaboration with LEAs.
Dr. Lubig recruited NMU alumni teaching in local school districts to work with NMU to design aligned and scaffolded practice opportunities with deliberate feedback for pre-service teachers and graduate interns. This partnership with alumni created a “natural loop” as the alumni provided constructive feedback about the teacher education programs. Dr. Lubig acknowledged the valuable and honest contribution of alumni and stated, “Our alumni are not shy at all about giving us feedback about the quality of our program and highlighting areas where we could improve.” He added, “Someone telling you what is working and what is not about your program without being prompted is motivating.”
The efforts to improve partnerships with LEAs, however, are not without significant challenges. One such challenge is the logistics of meeting with multiple LEAs in rural communities separated by long distances. Dr. Lubig and other LEA leaders devised a solution to this challenge. “To keep all of us on the same page, we meet together monthly to brainstorm common problems and common opportunities,” Dr. Lubig stated. He also shared that monthly collaborative efforts have supported success and helped to leverage limited resources. Monthly meetings help leaders to strengthen key partnerships, find creative ways to address challenges, and build the confidence of the professionals involved in the work.
Regarding advice for other state professionals interested in pursuing similar reform efforts, Dr. Lubig cautioned about taking on too much too soon. He reasoned that it is critical for stakeholders to recognize the importance of all ideas, but to be honest in understanding that it is not possible to tackle them all at once. He also emphasized the importance of planning and communicating to help with focus and prioritizing initiatives. With confidence, Dr. Lubig exuded, “What we did is we laid out a plan, and we stuck to the plan.”
Dr. Lubig specified that the LEA partnerships have been sustained through reform efforts and have improved professional practice. He described the partners as “our authentic audience” and is confident that the partnerships have made NMU’s teacher preparation program better and have enhanced the teaching profession. He emphasized that the CEEDAR Center, the MDOE, and his colleagues from the other participating IHEs have played an important role in the success of the reform efforts. He also credited reform efforts to the state-wide “culture of curiosity” that provides continual learning experiences and sharing of ideas.