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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

February 25, 2005

Partnership program aims for better teachers

California often leads the country in innovative programs. But when a group of teacher education and bilingual/multicultural education faculty in the College of Education was seeking a way to better prepare their student teachers for urban settings, they drew inspiration from an approach that had already been embraced in other parts of the country—professional development schools.

Their efforts led to the Equity Network, the University’s professional development school effort, to be bigger and more ambitious than its predecessors, with more than 12 professional development schools in the Sacramento Region, affiliated with 16 schools in the Roseville City, San Juan, Washington, Sacramento City and Elk Grove school districts.

Professional development schools are a close collaboration between the University and a school, or a group of schools, to work on mutual goals of improving student learning and enhancing teacher development, at both the pre-service and in-service levels.

“We take University and school district resources and apply them together to further student learning and teacher development,” says Pia Wong, a bilingual/multicultural education professor who coordinates the program for the College. “The schools want to work with our students and they also get a tie with our faculty. The university’s teacher preparation programs also get an infusion of current and practical professional knowledge and expertise from the teachers that collaborate on the professional development school effort.”

The decision to follow the professional development school model came from an ongoing concern—how to best prepare future teachers to be effective in urban classrooms and schools. A key part involved getting student teachers to become fully active at their student teaching placements, especially in the area of pupil learning.

“Let’s face it, the student teachers would rather be in the schools than in a campus classroom,” Wong says. “It gives them the chance to be involved with school activities, working with the kids and their parents. This partnership gives the faculty the opportunity to reach pupils on site. And the student teachers get to work with really high-quality mentor teachers who have a commitment to pupil learning.”

Other faculty members involved in the program include: Susan Baker, Eric Bull, Cid Gunston- Parks, Lorie Hammond, Janet Hecsh, Sue Heredia, David Jelinek, Julita Lambating, Jana Noel, Susan O’Hara, Daniel Orey and Deidre Sessoms.

The program is funded by a $1.4 million federal teacher quality enhancement grant. Though the federal program supports different kinds of collaborative projects, the Equity Network directs its efforts explicitly at Title 1 schools—typically underachieving schools that often have a population that is high-poverty and is culturally and linguistically diverse.

One result of the effort is that some schools have become mini-satellite branches of the University, such as in West Sacramento’s Washington Unified School District, in San Juan Unified and in Sacramento City Unified. In these cases, courses are taught at the professional development school and faculty are able to coordinate their lesson plans with content that is being provided in K-8 classes. They are also able to push their methods instruction into real classrooms. And teachers can be actively involved in co-teaching or guest lecturing in teacher preparation classes.

“It’s a great experience—the methods course is really a lab,” Wong says. “Student teachers get to put theory into practice with immediate feedback from course instructors and mentor teachers.”

Though all the professional development schools share the common goals of improving student learning, enhancing teacher preparation and development, and conducting action research, each goes about it in a different way, reflecting the individual nature of the school and its surrounding community.

Wong says these partnerships between the College and the schools not only benefit Sacramento State students and the schools’ teachers, in the long run they make the schools better. “By having faculty, student teachers and teachers all in one spot everyone is making a contribution. The new ideas that are generated by the collaboration result in improvements at the schools as well as in our teacher preparation programs,” Wong says.

For more information on the professional development school program, contact Wong at 278-4978.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu