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K-State Today

April 11, 2011

Better schools, better teachers: Professional development school partnership cited for excellence

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

A Kansas State University partnership with local schools that works to improve teaching and learning for all is being nationally recognized for excellence.

K-State's Professional Development School Partnership received the 2011 Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement Award. Sponsored by the National Association of Professional Development Schools, the award is given to a university with true partnerships demonstrating excellent achievement for K-12 students, future teachers and practicing teachers and faculty members. The honor was presented at the association's recent annual conference in New Orleans.

Gail Shroyer, co-director of the partnership and head of K-State's department of curriculum and instruction, said partnership is based on the belief that the preparation of future teachers and K-12 school improvements should be the joint responsibilities of higher education institutions and school systems.

"Students preparing to be teachers are placed in our partnering Professional Development Schools for four different field experiences or internships," she said. "The teachers at these schools work in collaboration with faculty from the College of Education and the College of Arts and Science to study best teaching practices, to examine and enhance their own teaching, and to plan and implement our teacher education program."

The two colleges have been involved with the program for 22 years. The partnership includes 20 schools in the Riley County, Manhattan-Ogden and Geary County school districts, with additional partnership schools in Topeka and Kansas City, Kan.

Shroyer said the partnership is beneficial for all involved, including higher achievement scores for the K-12 students; enhancement of teaching practices at the professional development schools; and providing future teachers with knowledge and skills for effective teaching.

"We work hard in our partnership to focus on meeting the needs of the K-12 students with whom our future teachers are placed," she said. "Our K-State students provide additional individualized attention to students, they bring new innovative strategies into the classrooms and they energize the practicing teachers with whom they work.

"On the other hand, the future teachers -- K-State education students -- are provided realistic experiences in real classrooms. There is no substitution for this," Shroyer said. "They all say they learn an incredible amount from the teachers and clinical instructors in the schools where they are placed."

Along with Shroyer, Sally Yahnke, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, serves as co-director of the partnership. K-State's Michael Perl, assistant dean of the college and associate professor of curriculum and instruction, serves as the partnership's director of field experiences.