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Restructured colleges, grant target K-12 school performance


October 07, 2009

The restructuring of ASU’s colleges of education and the recent award of a $33.8 million federal grant to the College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL) are but two milestones in the university’s effort to improve the quality of America’s K-12 education system.

“We have, as an institution, fundamentally come to the realization that we in the university are a major cause of the problem of the underperformance of K-12 education on a local, state and national level,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “K-12 performance issues are linked to a fundamental lack of innovation in the universities’ colleges of education, a fundamental lack of broadening the teacher pipeline to all university students as opposed to just college of education students, and a lack of accountability by the colleges of education relative to their product.

“What we’ve decided to do here at ASU, one of America’s largest producers of teachers, is to not only work on the conceptualizations of what we want teachers to do but to actually restructure ourselves. We have done this by creating two highly differentiated functions.”

Through the restructuring, CTEL has assumed responsibility for all ASU undergraduate and graduate programs on all campuses that lead to teacher certification. At the same time, the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education is focused on producing knowledge, new ideas and concepts, technically confident policy analysis, and graduate students in specialized fields.

“We have a group of faculty members and scholars at the Fulton Institute who are looking at broad concepts in education,” Crow said. “They are policy analysts and conceptualizers and theorists and philosophers of education and people bringing forth new kinds of technologies. We have concentrated them into a new institute for research in education – the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School.”

The restructured College of Teacher Education and Leadership has one purpose – to produce the finest teacher possible, from throughout the university by every means necessary.

“We plan to upgrade the professionalism of teacher training, upgrade the selection process for the future teachers, integrate the teacher education programs into the other colleges at the university, draw high quality students from science, from math, from engineering, from architecture, from English, from history, in addition to those that are specializing in education,” said Crow.  “All the research that goes on at that college is about one thing: producing the best teacher.

“We will also create a teacher tracking program to determine how well a teacher we’ve trained is performing in their 4th grade class or in the 6th grade math program or in the kindergarten program.”

The progress ASU has already made in enhancing teacher education, said CTEL Dean Mari Koerner, has drawn substantial outside support. CTEL has been awarded a $33.8 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program. The five-year grant will expand CTEL’s Professional Development School (PDS) program.

PDS gives students three times the amount of hands-on, practical classroom experience as traditional teacher education programs. In rural communities, the program enables local residents to earn a university degree and Arizona teacher certification without having to relocate to an urban area of the state.

The new grant enables the PDS program, which already spans metropolitan Phoenix and the state, to expand to work in partnership with several more districts, including Mesa Public Schools, the state’s largest district; three additional districts on the Navajo Nation; and an additional district in the Tucson area. PDS targets high-need schools and communities, aiming to improve both the preparation of future teachers and the achievement of students.

Koerner said the restructured version of CTEL is now ideally positioned to make a significant positive impact on K-12 students in Arizona while becoming a national leader in innovative practices.

“In order to win the federal grant we just received, CTEL had to demonstrate a deep capacity to deliver all the elements necessary to achieve the project’s ambitious goals. By combining our history of school partnerships with the talents of extraordinary faculty on all ASU campuses, we possess the resources to be successful,” Koerner said.

Koerner said ASU’s commitment is to reinvent the definition of teacher education at a major research university. “Without abandoning the role of theory, we are radically reforming our teacher education programs around a unified model of clinical excellence,” she says. “The citizens of Arizona deserve nothing less than the best teachers in their children’s classrooms.”

Crow is convinced the reconceptualization of ASU’s education colleges puts both on a stronger track.

“What we have done is to reorganize and restructure ourselves to focus on our two separate tasks related to K-12 education,” he said. “One task is related to policy ideas, concepts and philosophy; the other focuses specifically on teacher production. We think that will tighten up our teacher production, allow us to focus our attention on teacher production, and enable us to take responsibility for teacher production.

“I think there’s a lot of complaining out there about colleges of education, with people saying, ‘Why isn’t anybody doing anything?’ They should come here and see what we’re doing, because I think that they’ll be impressed.”