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UH Makes Strides to Ensure Teachers Are Ready on Day One

Posted June 20, 2017 – Football and other rivalries aside, leaders of education colleges around the country came together this week at the University of Houston to share how they are transforming teacher preparation.

“We take the notion of reform very seriously,” Robert McPherson, dean of the UH College of Education, said Tuesday as he welcomed fellow participants of the US PREP coalition to campus.

The coalition, launched in January 2016 and funded by philanthropic foundations, stands for University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation. Put simply, the group’s mission is to ensure teachers are prepared to work in the classroom on day one after graduation.

UH’s revamped teacher-prep program gives students two semesters of internship experience in local schools with strong support from a mentor teacher as well as a coordinator on side to provide sustained coaching and feedback.

Many colleges require only a one-semester internship and don’t provide an on-site coordinator. Students who opt for alternative certification may get no experience in the classroom before they start working.

“I talked to friends who went to other colleges and only student taught for one semester,” said Lauren DeVault, a 2017 graduate of UH’s revamped teacher-prep program. “They feel far less prepared to start teaching on day one.”

DeVault told the coalition that she feels ready to lead her own math class in the fall thanks to her experience at UH. She plans to work at Stevenson Middle School in the Houston Independent School District, the same school where she did her internship.

Fellow 2017 graduate Aljay Tan echoed DeVault’s appreciation and confidence.

“The yearlong student teaching experience through UH sealed the deal,” said Tan, who began college as a pharmacy major but found his calling as a science teacher. He also plans to work where he interned, at HISD’s Tanglewood Middle School.

In addition to UH, the US PREP coalition includes Texas Tech University, University of North Texas-Dallas, Southeastern Louisiana University, Jackson State University and the University of Memphis. The University of Missouri-Kansas City will join the coalition in July, and another university in Texas will come on board in the fall.

The convening at UH this week drew about 80 college and school district partners as well as other educators and philanthropic organizations.

“What I love most about this group is the transparency, the sharing of data and being open to learning and improving programming,” said Sarah Beal, executive director of US PREP.

The UH College of Education moved to a yearlong student-teaching internship in 2014 and has since accelerated reforms thanks to the collaboration with US PREP.

“We’re increasingly looking to data such as district satisfaction surveys and observations of our teacher candidates to inform our practice,” said Amber Thompson, the college’s associate chair of teacher prep. “It’s a reciprocal relationship between the college and our district partners. We both have the same end goal – to ensure all students have access to a high-quality teacher.”

Eric Tingle, principal of HISD’s Foster Elementary School, said the student teachers who intern at his campus from UH stand out. He said the support the students receive from the site coordinator provided by the College of Education is invaluable.

“We can clearly see the difference with this program as opposed to other programs that partner with us,” Tingle said.

–By Ericka Mellon