April 21, 2014
Writer: Nathan Guenther
BYU-Idaho is producing higher and higher quality teacher candidates and has established a reputation for producing among the best prepared students regionally. Consequently, windows of opportunity have availed themselves to us to consider placements differently than we have in the past. Earlier attempts to do this were not possible. As you are aware, student teaching placements have been accomplished in past semesters by gathering the names of students by area where they wanted to be placed, and then sending those lists off to the school districts those areas: Local, Boise, Las Vegas, Mesa, and Salt Lake. Our ability to control the quality of that placement diminished to nearly nothing at the point that those names moved from our hands to theirs. Further, with rare exception, the only person in the district that genuinely sought to assure certain quality outcomes was the cooperating teacher and in some cases, even they have not been committed to 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. The idea of partner schools came of that desire.Further, we believe that our students can be a great resource to schools when schools can come to depend on the resource and plan around it. They can reduce student teacher ratios, share ideas they have with their cooperating teachers based on best practices they learned on campus, ask questions that cause reflection on current practice, be involved in extracurricular activities, etc. We hope that you can be a resource to them. Further, the partnership is focused on collaboration and sharing between our faculty and their faculty. We hope they will tell us how to produce a better product. We hope to share research and experiences that could improve their practice. The dialogue will make us both 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 us, each meets some basic parameters: Partner schools are those 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 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 leader and most or all of the staff are committed to improve their practice, to innovate, and to provide the highest quality experience to their students and ours. This translates into many advantages for us and our students:
- By the first week of April each year, students will know their placement for Fall, Winter, and Spring and can begin to interact with and prepare for their assigned classrooms.
- Given that these partner schools will be aligned to BYU-Idaho alone, we will have greater interaction between their staff and:
- our clinical faculty (several times each week) - where trust can be built and collaboration will be fostered
- our full-time faculty - as we will have opportunities to visit and interact with their staff at least once a semester and hopefully more by email, video conferencing, etc.
- our students - hopefully we can increase the interactions our students can have with real classrooms while they are learning in our classes. The schools are open to it. What and how much occurs will be up to you.
- 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 each day and weekly in their cohort seminars.
- Participating in the interview process (possibly improving employment opportunities),
- In some cases, additional training or collaboration opportunities will be provided (e.g., SIOP, REACH, Covey, Center for Educational Excellence),
- More 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,
- Cooperating 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 and 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 anticipate 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 resource that these students provide. The school will benefit from the infusion of energy and training on current best practices that our students will bring. The school will influence what and how we teach and we will influence what and how they teach. The idea for partner schools was not mine but yours. I have discussed the need to such an experience with many of you over the last six years I have been on the faculty. We have hoped for a lab school and ways to increase the quality of our field experiences. I am only implementing what we have talked about over that time. As I have moved forward with these ideas, I have consulted with some of you more than others. I believe the doors that have opened to make this possible did not open by luck or good fortune, but by divine providence and intervention.· School districts become partners with us in producing future employees that are better prepared and specifically prepared to the teach students within the climate and culture of that district.· School districts will have the opportunity to change what is taught on our campus through regular dialogue about the areas of deficiencies our students have.Because our students become a dependable resource to the schools, the schools can use them in ways that they have not been