Building Bridges Between Universities & School Districts 
Building Bridges Between Universities and School Districts

This past May I wrote an article for the Superintendent’s Forum entitled, “Four Berks County Schools Join Kutztown University” The article detailed the beginnings of a partnership between four Berks County schools (Twin Valley, Wyomissing, Kutztown, and Brandywine Heights) with Kutztown University. The goal was to enhance the training of preservice teachers as well as create other learning opportunities for district and university educators. At this writing I am pleased to report that the partnership is going extremely well and is growing in expected and unexpected ways. 

This collaboration highlights the value of partnerships between universities and school districts. Through this relationship we are working together to improve preservice teacher training which is crucial to both school districts and universities.  To this end, part of our project with Kutztown University is to develop a Cohort of freshmen students that are placed with teachers in our school districts for the spring semester of 2018. Our rationale behind this is that additional time in classrooms will provide further training in an authentic teaching environment for beginning preservice teachers. As an extra incentive freshman can even continue their pairing with the same teacher through their sophomore and junior years building a stronger relationship with their mentors over time. 

This summer we began the process of designing the Cohort with superintendents and university colleagues meeting to discuss the logistics. It was decided that between twenty-five and twenty-eight freshmen would have the opportunity to take part in the initial Cohort. This would allow each school district to pair five to six freshmen students with district mentor teachers.  To begin the recruitment process superintendents and our Kutztown colleagues held a meeting in October with all freshmen pre-service teachers to explain the Cohort Model and the expectations of the program. Freshmen were selected through an application and interview process conducted by superintendents and university staff.  Forty-two students exemplified the passion, characteristics and skills that matched the expectations of the program.  We were pleased to have more preservice teachers than expected and fortunate to have the late addition of Antietam School District to our group in September therefore we able to accommodate the numbers. In addition to Antietam we had a greater interest from school district teachers to become mentor teachers for the program.  

So, what is the current status of the Cohort? Both mentor teachers and Kutztown faculty will be finalizing the Cohort expectations in January before students begin their school district visits. January 23, 2018 has been designated as the Project Kick-Off date where mentor teachers and preservice teachers from all districts will meet before the semester begins.  

The initial discussion about partnering with a University on preservice teacher training started in October of 2016. As we approach 2018 the reality of the partnership is coming to fruition with Kutztown University. As the work moves forward it seems both natural and energizing because we continue to discover new ideas on collaborating and improving the experiences for pre-service teachers. We are also finding that it may change how we approach education at the school district and college level.  Working with the outstanding faculty and administration in the College of Education at Kutztown as well as working with a team of committed superintendents is not only essential to the process but a sincere pleasure.
Posted by KHARPLE On December 08, 2017 at 8:08 AM