Leaders, partners and program graduates from the program, a Texas Tech University College of Education initiative, shared innovative features of the US PREP model and emphasized the importance of quality in training teachers.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos invited University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (US PREP) National Center to Washington, D.C., Thursday (Jan. 17) for a roundtable discussion about preparing classroom teachers.
The national center, housed within the College of Education at Texas Tech University, helps universities around the country transform and improve their teacher-preparation programs. During a meeting that lasted more than 90 minutes at the Department of Education, US PREP showcased how it is preparing teachers who are classroom-ready and addressing challenges that contribute to a national shortage of educators.
US PREP and its partners and program graduates shared innovative features of the US PREP model and emphasized the importance of quality in training teachers.
"In some states, the standards are low for preparation programs, making it easy to become a teacher through programs that are low-quality," US PREP Executive Director Sarah Beal said. "These teachers often teach in our highest-need areas, thereby perpetuating inequities in our school systems as well as de-professionalizing the teaching profession overall. Many policymakers are critical of colleges of education and have given up on us.
"We were pleased to showcase the hard work that has been done by the universities in US PREP, and that it is possible to make innovative improvements and thoroughly prepare candidates to be ready to teach on day one. And we are very grateful to Secretary DeVos and her staff for taking time to listen."
Deans and graduates from US PREP partner universities – including Texas Tech, University of Houston, Sam Houston State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Jackson State University and University of Memphis – were at the roundtable discussion to share their experiences.
"I was honored to share the importance of deep partnerships with school districts to meet their unique needs, and secondly, the importance of having robust and in-depth data to inform decision making," said Stacy Edmonson, dean of the College of Education at Sam Houston State University. "It was a great opportunity for us to have these conversations with the U.S. Secretary of Education and to have a voice in what will hopefully be meaningful change for teachers across the country.
"Teacher preparation is a team sport, so if we have innovative methods that are working in preparing high-quality teachers, then we want everyone to be able to model that and prepare high-quality teachers as well."
Among the features of US PREP are close partnerships between universities and schools, embedded university faculty in school districts, and intensive clinical experiences featuring a yearlong teaching experience and robust performance assessments.
US PREP also supports its member providers with developing high-quality teacher-preparation pathways that are affordable and accessible to prospective teachers. One example involves accelerated preparation pathways and partnerships with community colleges.
Data has shown that US PREP produces effective educators who are more likely to stay at a school district and become veteran teachers. The three-year retention rate for graduates of the US PREP model is 88 percent, and exit surveys show that more than 94 percent of graduates feel confident to teach.
"I shared with Secretary DeVos how important it is to have support for candidates in the teacher-preparation programs and the chance to foster relationships," said Ayodele Shofoluwe, a University of Houston graduate who now teaches in Lamar Consolidated Independent School District. "Having a yearlong residency of actually teaching alongside a mentor in a classroom for a year prior to stepping into your own classroom was very critical. I was able to meet with the principals and teachers and get a three-dimensional perspective on how the classroom works and the procedures and the expectations."
US PREP was launched in 2015 and originally worked with six school-university partners, adding two more in 2017. US PREP is now adding eight more partners, including in New York City and California. In all, US PREP is projected to prepare more than 5,000 new teachers each year.