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Partnering for Successful Teacher Residency Placements: The University of Memphis and Shelby County Schools Collaborate on Ready2Teach University News
For release: October 5, 2010

For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843

A longstanding and successful partnership has existed between Shelby County Schools and the College of Education at the University of Memphis, but a recent decision to redesign the approach to preparing pre-service teachers for the profession required a more in-depth partnership than has traditionally existed. After careful consideration, several steps were taken to ensure that all critical conversations and decisions had occurred before our students begin their first year of Residency 1. Among those changes are these:

The dean of the College met with Superintendent of Shelby County Schools to discuss the agenda for teacher preparation reform at the University of Memphis. Their meetings ultimately involved the University of Memphis director of Teacher Education and a Shelby County Schools assistant superintendent. A brief presentation was made to the administrative staff of the district (principals, curriculum specialist, etc).

The presentation explained the Tennessee Board of Regents Ready2Teach program and specifically the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) that would be instituted at the University of Memphis. A primary focus of the presentation was the clinical nature of the year-long residency and how the curriculum would be changing. Principals were invited to have their schools become partners in the endeavor and were asked to contact the central office if they were interested. This took place six to eight months before the first semester of the Residency pilot fall 2010.

The director of Teacher Education and coordinator for School-Based Clinical Practice, accompanied by a representative of the central office, met with six interested principals from schools that were also identified as those that had strong leadership and excellent teachers (teachers who not only excel at teaching, but who could serve well in the critical role of mentor teacher).

In visits with each principal, the conversation centered on the details of the residencies and how each school’s teachers would be involved in helping the University to design the nature of Residency 1. The principals identified only those teachers they considered to be a good fit with the requirements of the mentor teacher. All mentor teachers were hand-picked; at some schools eight were chosen, at other schools as many as 12.

Subsequent meetings in late May 2010 were held with the teachers, and by the end of that month plans had been mutually formulated and agreed to. It was agreed that candidates should assist the mentor teachers at least one day before the opening of school. It was also agreed that the candidates would be at the school all day during the first week of school to see how routines were established and how much had to be done.

To ensure a successful launch of Residency 1 of the Residency Year, three visits were made to each school between August 7 and September 9. The launch has been successful and close monitoring of candidates continues from our side of the partnership. Principals and others involved with the initiative have been complimentary of it. Barbara M. Hodge, principal of Barret’s Chapel Elementary School, Shelby County Schools, expressed her feelings this way, “Redesigning the teacher education program and placing the University of Memphis students for an entire school year was a brilliant decision that is revolutionizing the typical educational process of becoming a teacher.

“The evolutionary process of learning to teach is taking root while the students observe their cooperating teacher and work with the children from the very beginning of the school year. Involving the university students in setting up a classroom, preparing for student registration, and participating in in-service activities allows them to enter the world of teaching armed with reality-based knowledge and experience. These real world lessons could not have been replicated in the university campus arena.

“We are very grateful for this partnership between Shelby County Schools and the University of Memphis. It has made a dynamic difference in students’ lives at Barret’s Chapel Elementary School.”

Dave Carlisle, principal of Riverdale School, Shelby County Schools, said, “I am very pleased with the direction the University of Memphis' redesign of their teacher preparation program has taken. Having teacher candidates spend a whole year in a single building with an excellent mentor teacher will prepare them so much better for the realities of the classroom. Our Residency I candidates have been here since day one of our school year, and the relationship between the candidates, mentor teacher, and our students couldn't be better.”

University administrators, too, praise the approach. Dr. E. Sutton Flynt, director of Teacher Education for the U of M’s College of Education, said, “To me, the most satisfying thing about the Ready2Teach redesign of teacher preparation has been the reaction and support of our K-12 partners. The schools we are partnering with have universally agreed that this type of “redesign” is long overdue, and they are very interested in assisting the University in the endeavor.

“I think the richness of the conversations and the shared decision-making is going to result in the formation of a beginning teacher with a much more sophisticated skill set. The year-long immersion in a real-world classroom, coupled with a demanding capstone teaching assessment, will allow our candidates to demonstrate that they will be able to improve the achievement of all students they are assigned to teach after they complete the University of Memphis teacher program.”

Summarizing the benefits of the changes, Donald Wagner, dean of the College of Education at the University of Memphis, said, “Authentic experiences are the hallmark of effective clinical experience. We are fortunate to have a wonderful partnership with Shelby County Schools that enables us to bring these authentic experiences to our Residency 1 candidates.”

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