Leveraging K-12 partnerships to access data
The data our member deans want most – and have the most difficulty getting – is data on how their graduates are doing once they’re in classrooms of their own. Without some kind of feedback, leaders of teacher-education programs are stuck in a black box, unable to know definitively whether the work they’re doing is actually creating effective teachers.
Getting access to these data is difficult even in states with a statewide data system. In states without, partnerships with K-12 districts and schools offer one way for ed-prep programs to get some insight into how their graduates are doing in the classroom.
I wrote several months ago about school-level partnerships between Loyola Marymount’s School of Education in Los Angeles and selected public schools. The University of Nevada-Reno’s College of Education, under the leadership of Dean Kenneth Coll, has also turned to a K-12 partnership to break open that black box – this time, at the district level.
Not surprisingly, these two partnerships look very different. Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolitan area with 10.2 million people, the second largest public school district in the country, and a significant number of both charter and parochial schools. Washoe County, where the University of Nevada-Reno is located, has less than half a million people and a school district of about 66,000 students. It hires 50-60 percent of its new teachers each year from UNR’s College of Education (which, in turn, sends 60-70 percent of its graduates to Washoe County public schools). The university and the school system clearly have a vested interest in each other’s success.
The partnership between UNR and Washoe plays out in a number of ways:
- Since 1977, the College of Education has housed a district lending library in its building. Two district librarians work out of the library, which is open to district staff as well as university staff, faculty and students. The library keeps current copies of all district-adopted textbooks and curricula.
- The district loans master teachers – three at a time – to the College of Education for three-year terms. These teachers teach 200-level methods and practicum courses, which give students the benefit of real-world experiences from practicing teachers. One teacher candidate said that of all her professors, the district’s teachers have been the most effective. “They definitely help bring the program back down to earth,” she said.
- In 2000, the College of Education started a program called “Dean’s Future Scholars,” which identifies sixth graders in Washoe County schools from select Title 1 schools. These sixth graders are matched with a college-student mentor and supported through high school and into college. The high school graduation rate for students participating in the program is 98 percent, compared to a district average of 77 percent.
Recently, in an effort to enhance quality and in anticipation of new federal regulations for Educator Preparation programs (EPPs). the College of Education took the partnership to a new level by asking for – and receiving – data on the performance of its graduates The district started by sharing anonymized teacher-evaluation data; last year, it expanded the agreement to include student-performance data. An important point: the College of Education receives data on all teachers within the district, not just its graduates, which allows it to compare its graduates with other teachers. The College has agreed to share with the district the results of any analysis it does on the data. While the College is still working through everything it can do with this treasure-trove of data, the black box has been broken open.
What do these two effective partnerships—at LMU and UNR—tell us?
It’s all local. Partnerships need to be structured in ways that take local context into account. It would have been difficult for LMU to form a partnership at the district level amid the sprawling Los Angeles educational landscape. Conversely, for UNR to partner at the school level would have involved a lot of inefficient duplications.
Both sides need to see clear benefits. School district administrators, principals and teachers are busy people. To invest time and mental energy into a partnership, they need to be convinced that it will be worthwhile. For Playa Vista, the partnership with LMU gets their teachers access to professional development, and they also are building a pipeline of potential future teachers for their school. For Washoe, a majority of their new hires each year are coming from UNR; improving the quality of those new hires just makes sense.
It all comes down to trust. UNR’s College of Education has access to district data on its graduates and the students they teach because there is deep trust, built over 30 years of partnership, between the district and the College. The same level of trust exists between LMU and its demonstration school sites: at one school, for example, LMU has been involved since the school was still at the design stage. As time goes by, this trust has transcended personal relationships to become part of the institutional culture of both universities and the public schools they serve.