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Education initiative receives recognition for case study

October 27, 2008

Arizona State University has been selected to participate in a case study by the Teachers for a New Era Learning Network, which will examine the university’s ambitious initiatives to improve teacher education as a university-wide endeavor.

On Oct. 20-21, the Learning Network team visited ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership on the West Campus and the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education in Tempe and talked with faculty from the School of Educational Innovation & Teacher Preparation at the Polytechnic campus. They heard presentations about the progress of the statewide Teacher Preparation Research and Evaluation Project (T-PREP) and the university’s other efforts to better prepare teachers for the classroom.

"Teachers for a New Era believes the way to improve teacher education is through data,” said Mari Koerner, director of University Teacher Preparation and dean of the College of Teacher Education and Leadership. “Facts collected by colleges will help us understand what is working and what needs to be improved. Through T-PREP, the Learning Network sees ASU as a leader in designing and implementing a way to collect this data across campuses along with the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University."

Elizabeth Capaldi, ASU’s executive vice president and provost, said the university’s success is measured by the quality of its graduates.

“We prepare our teachers in both content and pedagogy, and we measure our success by their success in the classroom,” she said. “ASU has a wide range of initiatives to facilitate this, from the T-PREP teacher tracking program to our deans working together on teacher education across colleges and disciplines. Teachers for a New Era shares these goals and is a great partner in this effort.”

The Learning Network is a forum for higher education institutions dedicated to reforming teacher education by building on three design principles of Teachers for a New Era. The $125 million initiative was launched in 2001 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York with support from the Annenberg and Ford foundations. Daniel Fallon, former director of the Carnegie higher education program, set forth a challenge to colleges and universities to improve teacher education by making radical changes in how they allocate resources evaluate faculty, measure accountability and maintain relationships with practicing schools.

“Dr. Fallon believed the best way to improve teacher preparation in this country was by going through the colleges of education, not doing away with them,” said Elaine Surbeck, associate dean for teacher education with the Fulton College. “As a result, there are institutions in the country now engaged in highly innovative practices that cross disciplinary lines and that document and follow the performance of teachers over time.”

Eleven colleges and universities answered Fallon’s challenge and received $5 million in matching funds to help restructure their teacher education programs and set a national standard for excellence based on these three design principles:

• Decisions Driven by Evidence, which involves drawing upon research and creating a data system that can follow the progress of teacher education students into their classrooms, ultimately connecting teacher impact on student success.

• Engagement with the Arts and Sciences, which focuses on general and liberal education in order to improve subject matter understanding of potential teachers.

• Teaching as an Academically Taught Clinical Practice Profession, wherein schools are considered clinical sites for the practice of effective strategies within a community of learners who combine the skills of classroom teachers with that of research faculty at the university.

As a way to enhance the success of what worked in the original 11 funded universities, 30 additional reform-minded institutions, including ASU, were selected through a competitive invitational process in 2005 to join TNE’s Learning Network, from which 10 institutions were chosen to participate in the new case study.

“We were happy to be chosen for this case study. It is a testament of the power of sharing good ideas  being able to learn in a collegial fashion from what worked at other universities, and to envision ways you can take an idea and personalize it to fit for your institution—to make it your own,” Surbeck said. “ASU already was poised for the cultural shift in thinking across colleges and campuses, so it was at a natural leverage point for this initiative. At ASU, one area of focus has been in the areas of math and science, where the work of the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology (CRESMET) already was underway.”

At the School of Educational Innovation & Teacher Preparation on the Polytechnic campus, Dean Carole Greenes has been spearheading a move to increase the number of mathematics and science educators as well as offer opportunities for current teachers of those subjects to update their knowledge and skills.

"While we continue to offer programs in early childhood education, elementary education, physical education, special education and secondary education, we are enriching those programs by incorporating a variety of hands-on, collaborative problems that require the application of mathematics, science and technology for solutions," said Greenes.

Since 2005, faculties and administrators from the colleges of education, along with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, have been invited to Learning Network conferences to engage in the discussion regarding how to improve teacher education, which is in concert with ASU’s vision of the New American University.

An ongoing interdisciplinary committee focused on how to respond to the design principles. In March 2007, a conference titled “The Scholarship of Teaching” was held to broaden the vision and conversation about the design principles and to determine what steps ASU could collectively take to create innovations in teacher education. The conference featured Capaldi, along with Fallon from the Carnegie Corporation, and faculty and administrators from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Georgia State University.

Among the initial outcomes of the conference and the work that followed was T-PREP, a collaboration among ASU, the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, Pre-K-12 schools, state government and business partners to develop an assessment model to study teacher effectiveness and provide feedback to teacher preparation programs, teachers, schools and state policy makers.

The three-year project aims specifically to design and implement a model that addresses the complexity of teacher preparation and technical issues in research design and data analysis, positioning teacher education programs and schools to use the data more effectively to improve teacher preparation and professional development programs.

The T-PREP initiative is supported by educational stakeholders working collaboratively to put into place a coordinated system that will enable the three universities to engage with, support and receive feedback from teacher candidates starting at college admission through their first few years in the profession.