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ASU debuts 8th Professional Development School in state

December 04, 2006

The College of Teacher Education and Leadership at Arizona State University’s West campus has opened its eighth Professional Development School (PDS), adding Mirage Elementary School to a statewide roster of others in the acclaimed teacher development program.

The partnership between the College of Teacher Education and Leadership and the Deer Valley Unified School District (DVUSD) will place 21 ASU student interns in classrooms at Mirage this semester.

“This new and exciting joint venture formalizes the relationship between the college and the district,” said Mari Koerner, dean of ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership.  “It’s designed to prepare the next generation of Arizona teachers, as well as to continue education opportunities for veteran teachers and school leaders.”

PDS partnerships are designed to strengthen the professional development of new teachers entering the education field, going beyond instructional theory and engaging ASU faculty and public school faculty into best practices in teaching and learning. On-going performance research indicates that PDS teachers are more effective, confident and stay in the profession longer than teachers prepared in other types of programs.

If teacher enthusiasm at Mirage is any indication, the newest PDS program is already headed for success. Mirage principal Jennifer Cruz reported a heightened sense of enthusiasm and energy has taken root among her teachers.  “Our teachers graduated from college years ago,” she said.  “It’s exciting to see them learn new ideas and practices from today’s youth.”

While the Mirage PDS is the newest addition to ASU’s six-year-old program, school officials know what to expect in the way of results, based on a June 15 (2006) U.S. Congressional briefing by Patricia Tate, director of curriculum for the Osborn Elementary School District, which inaugurated the ASU program at Longview Elementary School in 2000.

“The impact of the PDS program has not only increased our 7th- and 8th-grade students’ test scores dramatically, it has also sustained the increase over a five-year period,” Tate told Congressional representatives, referring to a study of scores from 2001 through 2005. “The improvement in scores and academic achievement and the sustainability is directly attributable to our partnership with ASU.”

PDS was launched in 2000 by program director Scott Ridley, associate professor in the College of Teacher Education and Leadership at ASU’s West campus, and Joann Talazus, principal of Osborn’s Longview Elementary School. The partnership resulted in Arizona’s first full-service PDS and offered new teacher preparation and the resources necessary to improve the Osborn School District’s instructional practice and increase student achievement.  Today, PDS programs are offered in four Phoenix-area school districts (Osborn, Madison, Avondale, Deer Valley) and four remote-region districts (Whiteriver, Chinle, Douglas, Indian Oasis-Baboquivari).

“Becoming a Professional Development School is not just a design process,” said Ridley. “It is also a negotiation process: a back-and-forth dialogue among the university, schools and the community. The College of Teacher Education and Leadership took the lead on this type of university-school partnership because ASU is committed to working with community partners to provide the most qualified teachers in the state and in the nation.”

According to Koerner, the ultimate goal of the PDS program – at Mirage and around the state – is to turn around daunting statistics that say about 60 percent of teachers quit after three to five years on the job.  “We have to think beyond (our student-teachers) just getting a job,” she said.