In the wake of an unprecedented teacher shortage, U.S. educators are developing new and inventive ways to enhance K-12 teacher education to better prepare pre-service teachers, improve ongoing professional development, and boost teacher retention. K-12 school districts nationwide have begun to forge partnerships with university teacher preparation programs—benefiting districts, colleges, communities, students, and teachers.
Collaborating with teacher prep programs allows school districts to specify the qualities they’re seeking in teachers and reveal any disconnects between what college students are learning and what their future students actually need. And it supports the development of teacher candidates, offering them a real-life preview of what day-to-day classroom leadership and instruction look like.
Collaboration between post-secondary teacher prep programs and K-12 schools has been proven to improve teacher quality, student achievement, and teacher retention. Research shows that better prepared teachers stay in their careers, enhancing education across the board with valuable experience and reducing the cost of recruiting and onboarding new candidates.
Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Oregon has reduced its five-year teacher attrition rate from 30 to five percent through its collaboration with two nearby institutions of higher ed (IHE). The district’s partnerships with Western Oregon University and Corban University have enabled:
In just one year, teachers prepared through these partnerships outperformed their peers on eight out of 10 key teaching standards.
Real-world classroom experience is a key component of school–university collaboration. As far back as 2010, a National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) report recommended that teacher educators “move to programs that are fully grown in clinical practice and interwoven with academic content and professional courses.” Results of sustained clinical preparation in real-life classrooms include:
In addition to the benefits of hands-on practice, there are a number of benefits of teacher prep-school district collaboration overall, including:
Partnerships between IHEs and K-12 schools take time to form, grow, and mature. Following are a number of steps recommended by New York State education experts to promote successful collaboration:
The work doesn’t end once a partnership is established. To promote and sustain a successful affiliation, Education First, a national, mission-driven strategy and policy organization with expertise in education improvement, recommends that collaborating districts and prep programs take the following steps:
According to experts at California State University (CSU), components of fruitful partnerships can vary based on local context and needs—like demographics, geography, and economy. And collaboration evolves based on advances in understanding of human behavior and new technology. But for now, CSU has identified these additional characteristics as essential for a successful partnership:
The benefits of affiliation between districts and prep programs are undeniable. Establishing these partnerships requires a substantial investment of time and planning up front, but the ongoing rewards for schools, universities, teachers, students, and communities are worth the effort.
For more expert advice and supplemental tools* for launching and improving valuable school district–teacher prep program partnerships, check out this site developed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.