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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teacher Preparation: A Sampler

A short-and-sweet guide to programs for preservice educators.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

Regular feedback from university advisers is a key component of good teacher preparation programs.

Credit: Edutopia

Here is a sampling of colleges and universities throughout the United States with innovative teacher preparation programs.

Teacher Preparation Programs

Alverno College
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This commuter college in Wisconsin adopted an "ability-based curriculum" in which teacher candidates demonstrate that they know how to practice what they have learned in education and non-education classes. No grades are given, but students must show through performance that they have competency in integrating content knowledge with teaching methods and strategies, diagnosing individual student needs, and managing resources.

The students demonstrate their knowledge of teaching with extensive field service prior to student teaching, and teacher candidates receive regular feedback from university faculty and classroom teachers. The faculty works closely with local schools on such issues as technology and performance assessments. One researcher who evaluated the program felt that its careful match of teacher candidates and mentor teachers was an important factor in its success. In 2000, Alverno was cited by the U.S. Department of Education for its Effective Teacher Preparation.

Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah

The McKay School of Education puts a high premium on making teacher education a group effort. School leaders co-founded The Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling (CITES), which also includes the arts and sciences faculty at BYU and five local school districts.

The first part of the four-year program focuses on the work of educators as taught by arts and science professors. Teacher candidates then are grouped with twenty-five to thirty other students for two semesters, during which they receive instruction in how to teach specific subjects and classroom management. Practical experience is a major part of the program. For the last part of the program, students may choose between a single semester of practice-teaching with a mentor or a full year receiving half pay as an intern supported by an on-site mentor.

Kent State University
Kent, Ohio

Kent State combines a belief in early classroom practice for teacher education students with a desire to send technologically savvy graduates of the School of Education out to K-12 classrooms. The teacher education program, which includes both four- and five-year programs, was redesigned in 1998 to incorporate technology. Classrooms in the Graduate School of Education are equipped with a variety of Digital Age tools, including digital cameras and a data projector.

The education school also boasts an unusual facility called the Ameritech Electronic University School Classroom, which allows graduate education students to see how teachers and students from nearby K-12 classrooms use technology. The Instructional Technology Program includes designing visuals for instruction, computer applications, distance learning, and instructional applications of the Internet.

Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan

MSU's College of Education is grounded in classroom-based experiences and focused on developing subject-matter expertise, but computer applications, the Internet, multimedia, and other technologies are frequently used to meet those goals. The five-year MSU program, which places importance on the multicultural dimension of schooling, includes professional development school partnerships with Flint Community Schools and other districts in Michigan.

Each entering student is assigned to a team and stays with that group throughout the whole program. Technology and service learning are components of the program in the first two years. Field work that may mean video and hypermedia materials providing examples of school-based situations begins in the junior year. The field requirement increases in the senior year, and the fifth-year internship requires that teacher candidates be in a school most of every day under the watchful guidance of a mentor.

Candidates are required to demonstrate competence in e-mail, Web browsing and Web construction, use of databases and spreadsheets, word processing and presentation, and educational software. To encourage more creative integration of technology in real educational settings, the school also offers an Award of Excellence in Teaching with Technology.

San Francisco State University
San Francisco, California

The Muir Alternative Teacher Education (MATE) program is a collaboration between San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Unified School District designed to provide classroom experience that relates to educational theory and strategy courses. In the first years of the program at John Muir Elementary School the school had co-principals: one from the university and one from the school district. Now, the onsite director of the program is from the university, and the co-principal became the sole principal, but co-equal collaboration is still the main focus of the program.

Graduate students from San Francisco State University's College of Education are grouped into cohorts of thirty students and serve as interns for a school year. They receive daily practice in the classroom, first as curriculum and writing assistants, one-on-one tutors, and small-group instructors, and later as substitute teachers and occasional classroom teachers assisted by the real teacher. Education courses are geared to the particular needs of an urban, diverse classroom. The prospective teachers are also seen as a resource for more veteran teachers with their new perspective and innovative ideas.

Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, New York

Teachers College formed professional development schools with a number of New York City public schools. Those schools are dedicated not only to supporting student teachers with on-site demonstrations, instruction, and criticism from working teachers, but also to the continued growth of the experienced teachers.

The partnership features a one-year internship for prospective teachers, school-based seminars, and research on teaching and teacher education. Because of its location in New York City, issues that receive particular focus are equity, diversity, and inclusion. Teachers College also has been a leader in working with schools to integrate technology into school curriculum and collaborative learning, as well as to create teacher education coursework using computers. The school offers a master's degree in computing and education with the aim of integrating technology into the K-12 curriculum, studying the educational use of technology, and developing technology tools and products for education.

Trinity University
San Antonio, Texas

Trinity University adopted recommendations from the 1986 Holmes Group report on teacher education calling for five-year preparation programs that include a bachelor's degree in an academic discipline such as math or history, education courses throughout the program, and field experience starting in the undergraduate years. The field experience culminates with a yearlong internship the final year of the program. Students receive a master's degree in education.

The program also includes recurring work at professional development schools (PDS), where teacher candidates observe and teach and where master classroom teachers provide on-site guidance and feedback. The mentors also gain the opportunity to reflect on current education practices and participate in Trinity seminars. Clinical faculty members spend about half their time at the university campus and half at the PDS.

University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, Ohio

The University of Cincinnati co-founded the Cincinnati Initiative for Teacher Education (CITE), a coalition of the university, local schools, and the local teachers' union, which work together to provide quality teacher preparation that includes a focus on practical experience in Cincinnati's version of professional development schools.

CITE offers a five-year education program that includes an undergraduate degree in education and a major from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences as well as eighteen graduate credits. Students spend five to six quarters in field work and thirty-six weeks in one of nine professional practice schools as half-time paid interns. One internship, which is the joint responsibility of university faculty and K-12 teachers committed to being mentors, is split between two teacher candidates. The interns participate in seminars in which intern and teacher experiences are analyzed rather than attend traditional courses.

The goals of the professional practice schools are to prepare beginning teachers, provide professional development for more experienced teachers, and serve as laboratory sites for education research. Seminars on the experiences of the interns and teachers replace traditional courses during the fifth year. School districts and the university share mentoring and support costs.

University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa is a member of the Renaissance Group, a consortium of universities that work specifically to improve the education of teachers. A requirement of Renaissance membership is that the university president and academic vice president agree, along with the education school dean, to make teacher preparation a high priority. A tenet of the Renaissance philosophy also holds that teacher preparation should not be reserved for the final year but that it should be woven throughout a student's college career.

Technology is incorporated throughout the curriculum at UNI. A fiber optic network also connects the Price Laboratory School, an integral part of the university's teacher education program, to the College of Education so that students may study teaching as it occurs. UNI places many of its students out of Iowa for student teaching because of the desire for more exposure to diverse student bodies. The university, which leads in technology training of future teachers through its Iowa Educational Technology Training Institute, uses teleconferencing to reconnect those students to the university and to other students and faculty around the country to discuss and reflect on their experiences. School administrators also are invited to use the teleconferencing system to pose questions to UNI faculty.

University of Texas
El Paso, Texas

The education school at this University of Texas campus changed its teacher preparation program in 1992 to a "clinical model," in which field experience is a main focus. The program has the backing and input of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a coalition of local business and government leaders, school superintendents, and a grassroots community organization dedicated to boosting achievement. Integration of technology and effective teaching practices is an important part of the program, and classrooms and teaching laboratories are equipped with multimedia workstations. Professors also learn from local teachers by going to the schools and seeing how technology is used in the classroom. Mentor teachers get grants to take graduate courses in technology.

University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia

The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia offers a five-year education program in which students earn a bachelor's degree in an academic subject and a master's degree in teaching. Students start taking education courses in their sophomore year, and they also get their first experiences in the classroom, working from observation to actual teaching under the tutelage of university faculty and classroom teachers.

When prospective teachers declare their major in their junior year, they are assigned to two advisers: one in the teacher education program and one in their academic subject. During the first semester of the fifth year, teacher candidates teach full time. Curry offers a sophisticated technology program, including CaseNEX, which uses video case studies to teach education students who are often linked via the Internet to other universities or to veteran teachers who can bring different points of view to the discussions.

Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee

Students in the Peabody College of Education must have an academic subject major as well as an education major. Opportunities for classroom observation and experience are an important aspect of the Peabody experience and begin in the freshman year. The school is also a leader in integrating technology throughout the program. Peabody's teacher education program makes extensive use of multimedia and other digital materials to support teaching that promotes student learning. Video case studies are used to study the most effective teaching methods.

Career-Switcher Programs

California State University
Dominguez Hills, California
Math, Science Teacher Preparation

The School of Education at Dominguez Hills has a long history of supporting mid-career entrants into the teaching profession. Since the '80s, the university has worked with area businesses, particularly those in the aerospace industry, to develop math and science teacher education for engineers and others in the high-tech field.

The School of Education was recently awarded a grant from the California State University Office of the Chancellor for the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Mastering Algebra Takes Heroes (MATH) Program. Designed to respond to the need for math teachers (due to class size reduction in ninth and tenth grades), the MATH Program will recruit and train career-transition professionals from local industry in collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District. The program uses a professional development school model.

The University of Southern Maine
Portland, Maine
Extended Teacher Education Program

The Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP) is a graduate-level program consisting of two distinct phases: the internship year and the master's degree for beginning teachers. The internship year provides all of the courses and experiences required for state certification. ETEP interns study in one of five professional development schools -- schools that agree to work closely with the university in teacher education -- in selected urban and rural districts within the Southern Maine Partnership's network for renewing schools. School and university-based faculty join together in planning and coordinating each professional development school's ETEP program, teaching courses, and mentoring interns in classroom experiences.

Teacher candidates have two placements: the first semester, which ends with a week of lead teaching; and the second semester, in which the intern does most of the teaching. Students maintain portfolios that reflect their competence in standards set by the state for teacher certification. Their portfolios must include a videotaped demonstration of teaching. Teacher candidates also write a vision statement that is updated as their internship progresses, and they undergo two formal evaluations by university and local school instructors.

George Washington University
Washington, D.C.

George Washington University's Graduate School of Education and Human Development has several programs in support of mid-career switchers to the teaching profession. Specific programs include:

Urban Initiative

This two-year program combines one year of coursework with a second-year teacher-intern position at Cardozo High School in the District of Columbia. It is specifically designed to bring much needed teachers to the urban school environment. The interns work closely with a cooperating teacher, GWU Urban Initiative staff and faculty, while taking university courses.

Fairfax Transition to Teaching Partnership

Students in the Fairfax Transition to Teaching Partnership are placed in one of Fairfax County's twenty-three high schools, where they act as permanent substitute teachers in their content areas. They complete their coursework in afternoon and evening classes.

Norfolk State University
Norfolk, Virginia
The Pathways to Teaching Careers Program

The Pathways project at Norfolk State University was initiated, in collaboration with Old Dominion University and Norfolk Public Schools, "to enhance the educational opportunities and achievement of children in the Norfolk Public Schools."

Funded by a grant from the DeWitt Wallace Reader's Digest Funds, this program focuses on recruiting teacher aides, substitute teachers, and other paraprofessionals -- specifically targeting minority and male applicants -- and returning them to the Norfolk Public Schools, where they receive ongoing support from both the school district and Norfolk State.

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