It was Helen Keller that coined the phrase, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” This phrase makes me reflect on my career in education and sheds light on the value of collaboration and meaningful partnerships. Pursuing a career in education was one of the best things I have done in my life. Learning and collaborating with other teachers, facilitating learning in the classroom, receiving coaching, and assisting with the development of trainings and programs made me dig deeper and explore who I was as a learner and educator. Equally important, it made me think critically about who my kids could be as learners if I established meaningful relationships with them and their families and viewed parents as partners in education.
I have worked in education for two decades and have developed many lessons learned from engaging in partnerships. Many of the partnerships were designed to improve student learning, develop programs, or improve the climate and culture of an organization to better serve its community. I have come to view partnerships as a trusting alliance of two interests that share the same goals. Successful education partnerships often include a strong vision and goal for the partnership, clear and frequent communication, an openness to change, and mutual respect that allows the relationship between partners to strengthen over time.
Preparing all students for college and careers is dependent upon education leaders’ response to addressing our nation’s educator shortage. Developing a high-quality teacher education program that equips teacher candidates with the knowledge and skills needed to respond to the academic and social-emotional needs of our increasingly diverse student population is not an easy task. Teacher education programs are well suited for partnerships since adjustments will be needed based on the changing demands of the teaching profession and diversity in those entering the profession (e.g., traditional teacher candidates, military veterans, and other professionals with non-traditional paths to teaching).
What are some recommendations for district and teacher preparation programs?
A report from Education First, titled Ensuring High-Quality Teacher Talent, yielded ten recommendations for partnerships between districts and teacher preparation programs. The ten recommendations that serve as guidance for getting started are:
- Districts should understand their talent pipeline and discuss their needs with teacher education programs
- Partners should set the initial vision and goals together, with a focus on relationship building and trust
- Partners should align on rubrics and key expectations for program graduates
- Partners should commit to sharing and looking at data together to drive action
- Partners should jointly select and train mentor teachers and strategically place candidates
- Partners should ensure coursework matches clinical experiences and district language
- Partners should communicate and meet frequently
- Partners should spend more time in schools together
- Partners should be open to change and regularly step back to honestly discuss progress and challenges
- Partners should ensure that district needs drive shifts in teacher preparation programs’ pipelines, structures, and systems
(Education First, 2016)
Using these recommendations and examples from high-quality partnerships that have flourished nationally, Education First has developed the “Partnering on Prep” microsite that provides a toolkit to support building strong district-teacher preparation partnerships. The toolkit includes a self-assessment for district and teacher preparation program partnerships that can be used as a pre-and-post to identify where they started and how they have progressed, steps for addressing each of the ten recommendations with tools to get started, and ten case studies that highlight strong partnership work nationwide.
The effective partnerships highlighted in the toolkit demonstrate that districts have been able to fill vacancies in high-needs areas like bilingual education and special education, diversify the educator workforce, and attract teachers with highly effective performance ratings. Complex problems, such as tackling our nation’s teacher shortage, are best approached in partnership with others. Hopefully, the recommendations shared above will guide those seeking to develop or strengthen district-teacher prep program partnerships.
Author: Rebecca Parrott, Region 7 Comprehensive Center
Luczak, J., Vaishnav, A., & Horwath, B. (2016). Ensuring High-Quality Teacher Talent: How Strong District-Teacher Preparation Program Partnerships are Transforming the Teacher Pipeline. Education First.