Educator preparation programs in conjunction with state education agencies (SEAs) across the United States are rethinking teacher education in a variety of ways. Ohio, one of the 20 states receiving intensive technical assistance (TA) from CEEDAR, is taking an aggressive and forward-thinking approach to ensuring exemplary teacher education.
One successful structure in Ohio that helps to facilitate collaboration between and across the Department of Education and the institutions of higher education (IHEs) is the Dean’s Compact. This partnership comprises leaders who meet regularly and are committed to improving teacher and leadership preparation. Participating IHEs have implemented distinctive approaches in reforming programs, including creating dual-licensure programs and focusing on integrating practices such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL), technology, and collaborative teaching.
Kent State is an example of one university in the Dean’s Compact ambitiously refining its teacher preparation programs and improving the practice of in-service teachers through professional development and partnerships. Kent State professionals are collecting and using data to inform their reform efforts, which is a strong model for teacher preparation and practice. Dr. Brian Barber, one leader on the current project of simultaneous renewal at Kent State, provided insight into his team’s efforts. He emphasized that CEEDAR’s report, High-Leverage Practices and Teacher Preparation in Special Education, was instrumental in the work at Kent State. This document led Dr. Barber and his colleagues, Dr. Nathan Stevenson and Dr. Peña Bedesem, to look for practices on which they could focus in their programs.
The team chose to initially focus on improving classroom management. Dr. Barber pointed to the research, explaining that teachers who lack classroom management skills tend to burn out quickly, which contributes to teacher shortages. To help alleviate, as well as avoid, the recurrence of this problem, Dr. Barber, along with his colleagues and educational technology doctoral student Tracy Arner, are partnering with a local middle school to collect data. Expert teachers will be identified and trained to use technology that tracks classroom behavior management practices. This data can then be used to improve teaching practices. The data are also used by school administrators to better understand school-wide behavior practices to reduce office referrals and suspensions. After the training of expert teachers, pre-service education teachers in the dual-licensure program will complete a field experience with these expert teachers. The field experience, attached to a required classroom management course, will provide teacher candidates an opportunity to learn and practice classroom management skills and learn how to use data to enhance practice.
Mutually beneficial partnerships are crucial to teacher preparation. As the partnership progresses, Dr. Barber emphasized, the goal is to engage more teachers at the partnering middle school through professional development and mentoring of pre-service teachers. The team at Kent State hopes to use the data to track overall teacher satisfaction and longevity in the field. Collecting such information will be valuable to the field and could inform crucial programming decisions to ensure that colleges are graduating effectively prepared teachers who remain in the field.
Kent State and the Dean’s Compact are just a few examples of the successful partnerships Ohio is using as a foundation for ensuring effective teacher and leader preparation.