Professing Education

 

The Extended Teacher Education Program

Melody Shank, Julie Canniff, and Flynn Ross

The Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP) at the University of Southern Maine has received acclaim as an exemplary post-baccalaureate teacher education program (Darling-Hammond, 2000). Known for its foundation in strong school-university partnerships, the program provides recent bachelor's degree recipients and career changers the opportunity to learn to be teachers in a coherent nine-month program. The program combines an extensive internship with graduate level coursework through which interns develop the skills and understandings for teaching in increasingly demanding school contexts. The program's strength is founded on the university and area schools' commitment to continuous renewal and excellence.

ETEP's Inception

When ETEP was initiated in 1989, USM's College of Education and Human Development took a bold and controversial step. ETEP replaced a large well-established, conventionally organized undergraduate elementary teacher education program and several smaller secondary programs, all of which provided the university a steady flow of tuition revenue. The change was inspired by teacher education faculty and superintendents from Southern Maine school districts who collaboratively studied the prevailing ideas about teacher education and the needs of area school districts. During the study, superintendents claimed that USM teacher candidates were not adequately prepared for the demands of the reforms underway in area schools. They concluded that ETEP, a much smaller post-baccalaureate program, would produce more rigorously trained teachers who had strong content knowledge connected to learning standards, an emerging teaching philosophy, and the ability to continuously examine their teaching practices. More importantly, as a school-university partnership, the program would be rooted in the practices and needs of schools as well as the most current educational theories. The context for preparing high quality teachers would therefore become a site for continuous responsive and collaborative inquiry.

The structure of the program ensures that school and university-based educators, called site coordinators, together direct all aspects of the program for a cohort of 15-25 interns in each of the partnership sites. The cohort at each site provides interns a context for social learning and support, as well as a means to learn the facets of collegiality. Many of the courses in the 33-credit graduate program are taught by school-based instructors at the school sites where interns learn alongside exemplary practicing teachers (mentors) in two semester-long internships. The site coordinators and mentors coach the interns in their classroom placements, and strive to link theories with classroom practice.

Changes Over Time

One of the strengths of partner school-based teacher education is captured in the program's ability to be responsive to schools' practices and needs. As ETEP has developed and changed, the inquiry process employed to initiate ETEP _ school and university-based educators working together to learn in and from their practice about how to best educate teachers, has continued, and is still alive today. This process enables ETEP and USM's other initial teacher certification program faculty to ground their work in common principles and practices and adjust the program to meet the needs of ever-changing educational contexts in the partner sites and the state. Over the past 15 years, this collaborative inquiry process has resulted in broadened and changed partner school participation, a deepened commitment to common principles and practices, a more coherent experience for interns, and, most recently, expanded program options.

Two years after the initial cohort in Wells/Ogunquit, ETEP expanded to four additional partner school sites: Gorham, Portland, Yarmouth and Fryeburg. Later, three of these sites grew to include additional school districts - the Yarmouth site became Casco Bay and included the Falmouth and Cumberland-North Yarmouth school districts; the Wells/Ogunquit site became SWYK, including the districts in Sanford, York and Kittery; and the Fryeburg site became Western Maine and added two other rural districts. Only Portland and Gorham remained single district partner sites. By 2000, ETEP offered K-8, 7-12, and K-12 teacher certification in five partnerships sites and 13 school districts. The enrollment in the program grew from 14 interns in the pilot cohort to between 90 and 115 interns across the five sites.

The shape of the partnerships has changed as the resources and commitments of the districts and university have waxed and waned. After several years of expansion, sites were again reconfigured in 2003 due to financial retrenchment at the university and new program directions in some of the school districts and the USM Teacher Education Department. The Casco Bay site was closed; Western Maine returned to its original K-8 district in Fryeburg and was combined with K-8 schools in Gorham; a new secondary site combining existing middle and high schools in Western Maine and Gorham was created to focus on the needs of secondary school reform and teacher preparation; and the Portland site became a partner district for not only 9-month ETEP, but other USM teacher education programs.

Common Principles and Practices

During the period of site expansion in the 1990s, the faculty worked diligently to develop common principles and practices to provide coherence and focus across all cohorts. In 1993, eleven outcomes were outlined as the focus for interns' learning and as the basis for the performance-based assessment system that faculty later developed. Today, twelve teaching standards create the backbone for all USM teacher education programs. These standards, based on the INTASC standards include the following dimensions of teaching:

- Knowledge of Child/Adolescent Development and Principles of Learning

- Knowledge of Subject Matter and Inquiry

- Instructional Planning

- Instructional Strategies

- Technology

- Assessment

- Diversity & Cultural Responsiveness

- Beliefs About Teaching and Learning

- Citizenship

- Collaboration and Professionalism

- Professional Development

- Classroom Management

Two of these standards have been revised in the past five years.

The current performance-based assessment system, used to determine interns' competence as beginning teachers, was developed to provide a common set of evidence across all sites of interns' performance. By the end of the program interns demonstrate their competence of the 12 standards through these "shared assessments:" a teaching philosophy or stance, a student case study or set of student profiles, a curriculum unit, written reflections on teaching, observations and assessments of teaching performance, and a culminating portfolio/exhibition. ETEP site coordinators, course instructors, and in some cases, mentors have periodically come together to define common criteria for the shared assessments. Most recently, the school and university-based coordinators revised three of the shared assessments and came to a renewed agreement about the purpose of the culminating portfolio/exhibition.

As an additional means to maintain coherence across ETEP sites, and ultimately across programs, the faculty collaboratively identified these five program commitments to ground all USM teacher education programs:

- Integration of course curriculum with internship experiences, as a means for fostering on-going dialogue between theory and practice

- Performance-based assessment of teaching standards

- Intensive mentored fieldwork

- Continued and strengthened partnerships with schools

- Cohort model for teaching candidates.

The faculty deems these features the foundation for program excellence, and therefore all new programs developed in the past several years have these commitments as their starting place.

New Program Options

In the past seven years, the Teacher Education Department has increased access to teacher education for a broader audience of candidates through several new program pathways. These new pathways have been created in response to needs in particular school districts and across the state for well-prepared teachers in particular teaching areas.

At the undergraduate level, in addition to the TEAMS program, two pathways to initial teacher certification at the secondary level have been developed. To provide greater opportunities for mathematics majors interested in teaching, the USM mathematics and teacher education departments jointly designed and now coordinate a Secondary Mathematics Education program. The Math Education interns, who graduate with a major in mathematics and have a solid background in adolescent development and educational theories, join an existing ETEP cohort during their final internship year. These students demonstrate their teaching competence through the same performance assessment system as ETEP interns, and enjoy mentored classroom placements. A similar program for modern and classical languages majors will be implemented in 2006.

Within ETEP, four new pathways address issues of access and the teacher shortage in the region. In 2000, Newcomer ETEP, a two-year program for linguistically and culturally diverse candidates, was designed to meet the needs of the refugee and immigrant communities in the Portland Public Schools. The Newcomer ETEP program was designed to provide para-professionals within the school district and aspiring teachers within the ethnic communities a supportive teacher education program. In addition to the ETEP program standards, Newcomer ETEP provides assistance for developing English language skills, meeting standardized testing requirements, and understanding the educational system and teaching in the United States.

In 2004, a 2-year version of ETEP for secondary candidates was initiated to increase access to teacher education for those candidates whose financial or life situations did not afford them the opportunity to do the nine-month intensive program. The program increases the options for those candidates in the shortage areas of mathematics, science and world languages. It has the same program dimensions and expectations as the nine-month program, but extends the coursework over two academic years, and places interns in part-time internships.

The K-8 Unified ETEP option, designed primarily for education paraprofessionals, seeks to "grow special education teachers where they live" and prepare teachers to teach all students, especially those with disabilities. The K-8 Unified ETEP option is a two-year pathway to certification in both general and special education, and a master's degree in special education.

The program is individualized to meet the specific work parameters of interns within their school districts. This program challenges conventional understandings of cohort-based teacher education and classroom-based courses by providing the majority of course work in an on-line format.

A similar unified approach to teacher certification at the secondary level is also on the drawing board. The Unified Secondary ETEP option, to begin in 2006, will provide interested candidates the option to pursue certification in both a chosen content area and 7-12 special education, and a master's degree in special education in a 3-year program. The program will target conditionally certified teachers, paraprofessionals, and pre-service candidates. The intent of this program is to meet the need for highly qualified secondary educators in the state, who have a solid background in teaching a specific subject and have highly honed skills for teaching the diverse range of students in inclusive and standards-based secondary school settings.

Conclusion

With all of the changes that have occurred in ETEP over the years, the fabric of the program has taken on many colors while retaining its basic purposes and design. The faculty and partner school districts continue to be committed to the qualities of an outstanding teacher education program: a vivid portrait of good teaching; articulated standards of teaching performance; intensive coached field experiences; a strong curriculum grounded in knowledge of students, learning theory and pedagogy; integration of the curriculum with everyday teaching practices; strong partnerships; and performance assessment (Darling-Hammond, 2000). The program remains strong because the faculty continually revisits and fine-tunes the practice of these commitments in the face of challenges and new ideas. As it expects of its graduates, the faculty continues to learn in and through its practices.


References

Darling-Hammond, L. (Ed.). (2000). Studies of excellence in teacher education: Preparation at the graduate level. Wash., D.C.: AACTE Publications.