BYU-Idaho is producing higher quality teacher candidates and has established a reputation for producing some of the best prepared students regionally. Consequently, windows of opportunity have emerged providing better placement opportunities. Student teaching placements have been accomplished in past semesters by gathering the names of students by area where they wanted to be placed, and sending the lists off to the school districts in these areas: Local, Las Vegas, Mesa, and Salt Lake. Our ability to control the quality of placement diminished to nearly nothing when the names were given to schools in these areas. Further, with rare exception, the only person in the district who genuinely sought to assure certain quality outcomes was the cooperating teacher. In some cases, even cooperating teachers have not been committed to ensuring any specific outcomes. Thus, our office has and continues to investigate other approaches to student teaching that would assure a higher quality experience for every student, such as the Partner Schools program.
We believe our students can be a great resource to schools when schools can consistently depend and plan on quality student teachers coming to their schools. Student teacher ratios can be reduced, ideas can be shared with mentor teachers based on best practices learned on campus, questions that cause reflection on current practice can be asked, they can be involved in extracurricular activities, etc. Further, the Partner Schools program is focused on collaboration between BYU-Idaho and the individual schools. We hope schools will help us produce better teachers, while BYU-Idaho hopes to share research and experiences that will improve schools' practices. The dialogue between our programs will make both facilities better.
In the end, the greatest benefactor will be the children in the schools we all serve.
Advantages for us and our students:
While each partner school has varying levels of collaboration and advantages to students, each meets these basic parameters: Partner schools are schools where we have commitments from the administrators to place at least one small cohort (3 to 5) of students each and every semester, increasing the continuity of collaboration between their staff, our clinical faculty, and our campus faculty. Each partner school was selected by us or by district administration because the school leaders and most or all of the staff are committed to improving their practice, innovate, and to provide the highest quality experience to their students and ours.
Specific advantages provided to BYU-Idaho and our students:
- Through the interview process, each candidate will know at least 2 months in advance where they will be places so they can begin to interact with and prepare for their assigned classrooms.
- As these partner schools will be aligned to BYU-Idaho alone, we will have greater interaction between their staff and:
- our clinical faculty - Where trust can be built and collaboration will be fostered.
- our full-time faculty - As we will have opportunities to visit and interact at times with our partner districts.
- our students - We hope to increase the interactions our students have in real classrooms. To what extent this occurs will be determined between individual students and their respective partner school.
- The opportunity to learn in an innovative, progressive environment.
- Working with other student teachers from BYU-I in the same school where they can collaborate with each other daily and weekly in their cohort seminars.
- Participating in the interview process (potentially improving employment opportunities).
- In some cases, additional training or collaboration opportunities will be provided (e.g., SIOP, REACH, Covey, Center for Educational Excellence).
- Regular contact and collaboration between site faculty and our campus faculty.
- Clinical faculty selected who match the culture and climate of the school where they supervise.
- Mentor teachers who were matched to the student's demographic information and desires.
Advantages for the district and what we commit to:
Partner schools benefit because principals will interview and select which students come to their schools. (Only students who are well prepared will be allowed to interview). Students can be selected to match the culture and climate of the school, to fulfill current or anticipated needs of the school (employment), and to address other concerns the school might have. The school will be able to plan on the arrival and resources these students provide. The school will benefit from the infusion of energy and training on current best practices our students will bring. The collaboration will influence what and how BYU-Idaho teaches. The idea for partner schools has been discussed with various partner schools over the last six years. The doors that have opened to make the Partner Schools Program possible did not open by luck or good fortune, but by divine providence and intervention.
School districts become partners with BYU-Idaho in producing future employees that are better and specifically prepared to teach students within the climate and culture of their specific district.