Professing Education

 

Pre-Service Teacher Education
Pre-Service Teacher Education and the
Southern Maine Partnership

Lynne Miller and David Ruff

The University of Southern Maine, like many comprehensive regional universities, has its roots in the normal school movement. It was chartered in 1878 as the Western Maine Normal School. Even though the university grew and diversified its offerings, it was still known regionally as the place where undergraduates could prepare to enter teaching. All of this changed in 1989 when the College of Education voted to disband its undergraduate teacher education programs. The little known story behind this dramatic shift is that in the previous year, eight Southern Maine Partnership member superintendents had drafted a letter to the Dean of the College calling for a major overhaul of its teacher education programs. In a follow-up meeting, the superintendents voiced concerns about the quality of the programs and their disconnect from the practice of schools. They stated that, if given the choice, they would rather hire students prepared elsewhere and would consider USM graduates more suited for positions as technical assistants than as full time classroom teachers.

The University President at the time had a deep commitment to the liberal arts and some disdain for professional education. When the Dean of the College approached her with the idea of dismantling undergraduate teacher education and replacing it with a post-baccalaureate program that admitted only liberal arts graduates, she embraced the idea. In a pivotal speech to the College faculty, the President offered resources for the new program and a promise of support. A faculty vote affirmed the proposal to suspend all undergraduate teacher education programs and to move to a new graduate model. The Director of the Southern Maine Partnership was asked to lead the development of the new program and to serve as its initial director.

A pilot of the new program began in the fall of 1990. It admitted fourteen students to a 30 credit hour graduate program leading to certification as a middle school teacher. The new program, as yet untitled, was developed in collaboration with Wells Junior High School, a Southern Maine Partnership school with whom a member of the teacher education faculty had existing ties. After only six months of planning, the pilot program began. It was structured around a set of common core principles that still influence the university's teacher education programs. These core principles are: school-university collaboration in program planning and administration, collaborative admissions processes, a cohort group of interns placed for a full year in a partner school, an adherence to the school— rather than university—calendar, integration of theory and practice, the valuing of teacher voice, site-based courses that are collaboratively planned and taught, intensive supervision, and reflective practice (Miller and Silvernail, 1994). These principles were influenced by the work of the Goodlad network as well as the emerging movement toward professional development schools.

The pilot program formed the basis for what was later called the Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP), which has been widely recognized as an exemplary graduate level teacher education program (Darling-Hammond, Ed, 2000). Some years later, ETEP became the model for a new undergraduate teacher education program at the university, Teachers for Elementary and Middle Schools (TEAMS). The Southern Maine Partnership and pre-service education at the university continue their collaboration as new needs arise and new programs develop.


References

Miller, L. & Silvernail, D. (1994). Wells Junior High School: Evolution of a professional development school. In. L. Darling-Hammond (Ed) Professional development schools: Schools for a developing profession, 28-49. New York: Teachers College Press.