Theme 6: Developing collaborative partnerships with the public/private sector
In the last two decades, renewal, redesign, restructure, and reform have been the agenda for both P-12 and higher education, specifically teacher education. Central to that reform agenda has been the expectation for the simultaneous renewal of P-12 and teacher education to improve student learning. Extended school-university collaboration has become the cornerstone of this quest to provide for the continuous professional development of educators, from preservice through induction and throughout their professional careers (Carnegie, 1986; Darling-Hammond, 1994; Holmes Group, 1986, 1990, 1995; Levine, 1988, 1992; Levine & Trachtman, 1997; Maryland Higher Education Commission, 1995; MSDE, Visionary Panel, 2002; NCTAF, 1996, 1997, & 2003).
The Professional Education Unit believes that continuous improvement that ensures currency and standards of program excellence results from collaboration, which is not the same as cooperation. A key Unit disposition, collaboration means teacher education and its multilayered stakeholders work together toward commonly established goals, whereas cooperation means stakeholders help teacher education to achieve its goals. Professional education at Towson is in the forefront of educating teachers "in partnerships that are becoming exemplars of what is possible rather than mired in what has been” (NCTAF, 1996, pp. 31-32). Among the multilayered stakeholders engaged in collaboration are the Teacher Education Executive Board, faculty throughout the university, P-12 school systems and school personnel, the Maryland State Department of Education, and other influential private sector education-related groups, such as the Maryland Business Roundtable.
Towson adheres to the twin maxims that the education of teachers and education specialists is an all-campus responsibility and that programs for the preparation of educators thrive in a university culture that values quality teaching. Reflecting these beliefs, regular campus collaboration occurs among teacher education faculty, among all university faculty and among the colleges on campus. The Teacher Education Executive Board, a standing committee of the University Senate which includes representatives from all undergraduate and graduate education programs, coordinates this collaboration as the primary means to maintain and enhance program integrity. Curricular initiatives, such as the Center for Mathematics and Science Education (in the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics) are illustrative of collaborative efforts between faculty designed to enhance the academic and pedagogical preparation of candidates. Close linkage between the University’s Multicultural Institute and the College of Education supports the vision to enhance faculty and candidate’s knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to diversity and inclusivity.
Collaboration with P-12 schools occurs through a wide variety of activities. Reflecting Maryland’s Redesign of Teacher Education, professional education at Towson has been proactive in its response to the need, recognized internally and externally, to intersect more fundamentally with the wisdom of practice in P-12 schools (Darling-Hammond & Baratz-Snowden, 2005; Howey, 1996; MHEC, 1995; MSDE Visionary Panel, 2002; McIntyre, Byrd, & Foxx, 1996; NCTAF, 1996 & 2003). Most significantly, strong clinical practice is essential for professional education; collaborative partnerships with P-12 schools provide the structure and clinical context to integrate university course work, both undergraduate and graduate, with field experiences to ensure that key concepts, skills, and theories are grounded and demonstrated in a meaningful context.
Professional education programs at Towson incorporate extensive and varied field and clinical experiences with diverse and inclusive communities of learners to support candidates’ learning in and from practice. Reflecting national and state standards (e.g., NCATE and Maryland PDS Standards), and supported and supervised by University and P-12 personnel, these collaboratively designed, implemented, and evaluated experiences provide authentic learning experiences where preservice teachers and candidates for advanced certification have multiple opportunities to build, refine and demonstrate their repertoire of knowledge, skills, and dispositions to demonstrate mastery of the appropriate beginning and advanced performance standards.
It is in the professional development school initiative, the most recent attempt to transform the context for the standards-based preparation and continuous professional development of teachers, that Towson University has achieved distinction. The success of the Towson University Professional Development School Network (PDS Network) has been repeatedly recognized nationally and in Maryland. It was the recipient of the Association of Teacher Educators’ 1998 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education. Additionally, the PDS Network was selected as one of NCATE’s Professional Development Schools Standards Field Test Project sites. In 2003, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick wrote that “the College of Education has shown my staff, Maryland local school systems, and the teacher education community nationwide how to improve teaching and learning for K-16 students in professional development schools. Your teacher education students are ready to teacher upon graduation and are much more like second year teachers than their predecessors” (Grasmick, 2003). In 2004, Teitel noted that “ Towson University and its school partners have long played leadership roles in state and national professional development schools development” (Neapolitan, et al., 2004, p. i).
In 2005, Teitel cited the “powerful personal and institutional … growth and transformation” of Towson’s PDS Network, and commended our efforts as “a dramatic scale-up story- proof that with conviction, hard work, and a collaborative spirit, school and university partners can bring high quality PDS to scale, even in a large teacher-producing university"(Teitel, p. xi). Additionally, Towson University 's PDS Network received the Maryland Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Excellence Award for Educational Programs in May 2005.
Professional development schools have become a major force in preservice education at Towson and nationally. They reflect the commitment of teacher educators to change and to transcend traditional models of field experience, and are “a symbol of how systemic change can be brought to bear to assure the highest level of learning during a time when strict accountability requires the best possible teaching of our nation’s children” (Berkeley, 2004, p. vii). Indeed, “creating such a new culture that relies on the collaboration of school and university transforms both institutions and the personnel within each” (Book, 1996, p. 194).
Additionally, reflecting Maryland’s Redesign of Teacher Education Performance Criteria and the 2004 Report of the Maryland Teacher Professional Development Advisory Council, the Towson Learning Network’s collaborative efforts with P-12 schools have resulted in numerous collaboratively designed programs at the advanced level to meet the identified professional development needs of school systems for qualified personnel in the areas of educational leadership, reading, special education, school library media, and instructional technology.
Towson University also recognizes that the contemporary educational environment requires interagency as well as private sector collaboration. Accordingly, Towson regularly collaborates with the Maryland State Department of Education (e.g., Maryland Technology Academy, K-16 education policy issues, new program initiatives in Reading, integrated general education/special education programs), University System of Maryland (Teacher Academy of Maryland initiative with Baltimore City Public Schools, 2 & 2 program with Prince George's County Public Schools), and the Maryland Higher Education Commission (e.g. K-16 education policy and funding issues, development and implementation of the Associate of Arts in Teaching degree). Numerous private sector collaborations also exist; examples include collaboration with Maryland Business Roundtable (e.g., Maryland Plan for Technology in Education, State Plan for Professional Development) and The Family Works’ Maryland Parent Leadership Institute. These efforts ensure that all public and private sector avenues are engaged to support ongoing improvement in undergraduate and graduate programming.