By Dr. Cynthia Desrochers, InnovatED Editor
Cynthia: Barbara, what is the Partnership Project, and what are its goals?
Barbara: The Partnership Project connects Cal State Northridge faculty with individual public schools to the benefit of both. The Project has evolved over the years, so that currently, largely through word-of-mouth, public schools have contacted us and requested professional development on an array of topics; we identify CSUN faculty who have expertise in the desired area and ask them to lead workshops for each school. This partnership benefits the schools by providing cutting-edge knowledge to busy teachers who may not have the time to keep abreast of current research, and it benefits CSUN faculty by providing them with authentic classroom-based examples that they can share in their college courses, often with our teaching credential candidates. This mutual sharing has its roots in the clinical-site model of teacher preparation, one which emphasizes full immersion in the schools for course work, observation, and student teaching; additionally, this is a model which stresses collaboration between the supervising teacher and university supervisor, working together with a unified curriculum to improve teaching and learning for the teacher candidate, and ultimately, the PreK-12 pupils.
Cynthia: What is your background that makes you a perfect fit for this work?
Barbara: I have been involved with this effort from the beginning, when the Teachers for a New Era grant was awarded to CSUN in 2002. I was the principal of Sepulveda Middle School, one of three schools using the clinical site model with the Michael D. Eisner College of Education. The three schools, Langdon Elementary, Sepulveda Middle, and Monroe High, shared a cohort of teacher candidates from the Eisner College. Having the goal of full immersion in the schools, credential candidates were on site even before the PreK-12 pupils arrived, helping supervising teachers prepare classrooms for the first day of school. They witnessed the excitement and challenges of the first day and week, a practice strongly encouraged because it presents a more realistic learning experience than visiting weeks after school has begun and routines have been established. Future teachers saw the critical teacher decision making that they would be making independently as fully-credentialed teachers: establishing classroom expectations, determining student-learning levels, and crafting appropriate student-learning objectives. Moreover, as the principal, I was able to dedicate one of our rooms as a CSUN classroom for conducting all cohort courses on site at Sepulveda.
Data collected about the school-site model was positive. Student teachers indicated a high degree of satisfaction with their experiences, as did their cooperating teachers. Because of this success, when I retired from LAUSD, I voiced an interest in keeping the connection between the public schools and the university. Hence, in 2007, the job I now hold as School Partnership Liaison was established to fulfill this need. I am fortunate to have built many relationships with the public schools, and they contact me to assist with their School Choice Plans as well as to identify professional development expertise at CSUN to meet their expressed needs.
Cynthia: What are some of the partnerships you are engaged in currently?
Barbara: We currently have a number of partnerships. Let me suggest that you may want to read about them in our inaugural issue of the Partnership Newsletter, which we will be publishing each semester to update interested community members on our projects.
Cynthia: How do you measure the success of these collaborations, both from the standpoint of the public schools and the university?
Barbara: For the public schools, one important measure is that they come back for more—more professional development from us! Success hinges on positive feedback from the public school teachers. We must also grow capacity to provide more and more of what the schools want. Moreover, we want to show improvement in the quality of PreK-12 classroom instruction, and ultimately, PreK-12 students’ learning. This is where the success of these collaborations for faculty comes in. Many faculty are adept at designing program evaluations of partnership efforts and publishing the results. The university, therefore, not only has the expertise to provide professional development to schools, but also to study and report on the results, perhaps in collaboration with the school partners. For instance, a research question might be asked: Does professional development on “best practice X” result in changes in the way teachers deliver instruction? If so, what impact does this have on the PreK-12 students? Increasingly, faculty are doing this evidence gathering, and we encourage it as a measure of our success, as well as a scholarly reward for faculty who participate in school partnerships.
Cynthia: How do you enlist participation in the Partnership Project?
Barbara: As word of our success has spread, public schools within our region have contacted me with requests for professional development. Next, I contact chairs and ask them to contact their departmental colleagues. Just this past Saturday, Dr. Shiuli Mukhopadhyay, Department of Elementary Education, did an excellent two-hour workshop at Carlos Santana Arts Academy Elementary School (LAUSD, Local District 1) on the topic of Criteria Charts and Rubrics. In this case, Principal Leah Bass-Baylis contacted me, and I contacted Dr. Craig Finney, Interim Department Chair, Department of Elementary Education, who sent out an email to the entire department. I was elated that a number of faculty offered to do this particular workshop.
I encourage anyone who is interested in being involved with the Partnership Project to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.