Educators flock to Phoenix to learn how ASU trains teachers to succeed

September 25, 2015

“It’s going to be messy,” Sarah Beal told the room full of educators on Wednesday morning.

“But you have to create that sense of urgency to make the changes that need to happen.” iTeachAZ Paige Schulte, associate professor from Southeastern Louisiana University, discusses the ASU teacher prep program with iTeachAZ teacher candidates in the Deer Valley Unified School District's iTeachAZ classroom at Paseo Hills School in Phoenix. Part of the conference took participants into classrooms where Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College students are part of residencies in local school districts that pair them with teaching mentors. Photo by Michael Hegarty Download Full Image

She was talking about the need to reinvent teacher training, a shift that the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has tackled for the past four years.

It’s why experts from 30 educational institutions gathered in Phoenix this week to learn how Arizona State University reversed a model that was entrenched for decades.

It was hard work, Beal told the Excellence at Scale: ASU iTeachAZ Conference, and it’s not done yet.

Beal, executive director of college partner grants, was on the team that reworked the program. Starting in 2010, coursework became harder and students were held to a rigorous accountability system. In 2011, seniors were offered a chance to become immersed in a “residency.”

In just a few years, the changes have produced results. According to the teachers’ college, of the students who completed the iTeachAZ residency program, 92 percent are still teaching in Arizona. That compares with a first-through-third-year teacher retention rate of 80 percent nationally and 76 percent in Arizona.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, an online database highlighting innovative practices, cited iTeachAZ as a program that gives teacher candidates a competitive edge in the field.

The reinvention was driven by a realization that the old model wasn’t working anymore.

“Over the years, at teachers’ colleges, faculty have owned their courses. They have complete autonomy, and their teaching is somewhat isolated from the program as a whole,” Beal said.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education proposed new rules that would require teacher-preparation programs to report more data on teacher hiring, retention, effectiveness and student achievement.

“This is urgent,” Beal said. “Our students need good teachers.”

She said research has found that many students in teacher-prep programs got good grades and went on to be highly evaluated as teachers, but those results were not translating into student achievement.

Beal said the teachers’ college students have become critical consumers.

“When they don’t feel their teachers are modeling good instruction, they get angry about that. And they should.”

Convincing faculty to change was the biggest challenge.

The team had to overcome the natural tensions between tenured faculty, who focus on research, and the clinical staff, which emphasizes teaching. One way they did that was to videotape each other while teaching, then critique the results together. Some of the faculty members hadn’t taught a classroom lesson in years, and the exercise reinforced the importance of their shared mission.

Margarita Jimenez-Silva, associate professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was also on the team. She said the group had to reassure tenured faculty who were concerned the changes could compromise their academic freedom.

“But at the end of the day, it’s not about your research, it’s about making the best teachers we can,” Jimenez-Silva said.

Among the biggest innovations was iTeachAZ, launched in 2011, which places groups of seniors into a yearlong residency in a school district. The students work alongside teacher-mentors for the entire academic year, not just one semester.

At the same time, the student-teachers still take ASU coursework. And instead of returning to one of the campuses, they attend classes at the school where their site coordinators teach them coursework.

About 30 districts now partner with ASU by hosting iTeachAZ candidates.

Janet Tobias, a principal of Kyrene de la Paloma Elementary School in Chandler, said, “I see a reflectiveness in the iTeachAZ candidates, which is what I’m looking for in a teacher, because if you’re reflecting, you’re growing.”

She said that the accountability is rigorous.

“We have seen that if the teacher candidates aren’t cutting it, the mentors are brave enough to say, ‘This isn’t going to work out,’ ” Tobias said.

ASU’s work is not done, Beal said. The iTeachAZ method is now offered only for teachers training in K-8 schools, not high schools.

“And not all teacher-educators are on board,” she said.

On Wednesday, a room full of conference participants cited faculty resistance as the biggest obstacle they face in importing ASU’s methods at their institutions.

“What resonates is how worried the university is about being evaluated according to the same standards that we expect our teachers to perform at,” said Jennifer Tuttleton, director of school improvement in the Ascension Parish Schools in Louisiana.

She praised the changes that the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has made.

“Teachers are faced with high accountability. Their jobs are on the line, and I love this initiative.”

Arizona PBS general manager named to Cronkite Alumni Hall of Fame

September 25, 2015

Kelly McCullough, who leads one of the nation’s largest PBS stations, is this year's inductee to the Alumni Hall of Fame at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

McCullough, a 1982 Cronkite graduate, is general manager of Eight, Arizona PBS, a station that reaches more than 1.9 million households across the state on three television channels.  McCullough’s leadership has brought Arizona PBS to new heights, diversifying local programming, increasing membership and expanding the station’s commitment to the community. Kelly McCullough Kelly McCullough, a 1982 ASU journalism graduate and the general manager of Eight, Arizona PBS, is this year's inductee into the Alumni Hall of Fame at ASU's Cronkite School. Photo by: ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Download Full Image

McCullough has been at Arizona PBS for much of the past 30 years, first working in fundraising TV production. In 1986, he became manager of viewer marketing, increasing the station’s revenue 50 percent and boosting membership 40 percent over seven years. He also served as associate general manager before being named general manager in 2008.

As general manager, McCullough is responsible for all aspects of Arizona PBS, including strategic planning, community partnerships, business development, programming and multimedia operations. He played an instrumental role in the station’s recent union with the Cronkite School, making it the largest media organization operated by a journalism school in the world.

“Kelly has shaped Eight, Arizona PBS into one of the country’s top public television stations,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “I am thrilled to welcome him into our Alumni Hall of Fame, and I am excited to continue working with him as we build a game-changing public television enterprise.”

During his time working within PBS, McCullough has received 20 PBS awards for development and promotion and four Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards. He also has been a speaker numerous times at PBS Conferences and other organizations.

McCullough studied broadcast management at the Cronkite School. He also earned an M.B.A. from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business. In the community, he is a member of the Arizona Office of Tourism Advisory Council, the Balsz Promise Neighborhood Advisory Committee, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits Board of Directors, the Arizona Tourism & Lodging Association Board, the EVIT media advisory board and the Taliesin West Board of Stewards.

He also is a member of the Cronkite School’s Endowment Board of Trustees, a group of top media leaders from across the Valley that helps plan the annual Cronkite Luncheon, at which the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism is presented each year to a leading journalist.

McCullough is the 46th inductee into the Cronkite Hall of Fame, joining Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Julie Cart, CNN International’s Becky Anderson and Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall, among others.