For release: October 5, 2010
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843
A longstanding and successful partnership has existed between Shelby County Schools
and the College of Education at the University of Memphis, but a recent decision to
redesign the approach to preparing pre-service teachers for the profession required
a more in-depth partnership than has traditionally existed. After careful consideration,
several steps were taken to ensure that all critical conversations and decisions had
occurred before our students begin their first year of Residency 1. Among those changes
The dean of the College met with Superintendent of Shelby County Schools to discuss
the agenda for teacher preparation reform at the University of Memphis. Their meetings
ultimately involved the University of Memphis director of Teacher Education and a
Shelby County Schools assistant superintendent. A brief presentation was made to the
administrative staff of the district (principals, curriculum specialist, etc).
The presentation explained the Tennessee Board of Regents Ready2Teach program and
specifically the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) that would be instituted at
the University of Memphis. A primary focus of the presentation was the clinical nature
of the year-long residency and how the curriculum would be changing. Principals were
invited to have their schools become partners in the endeavor and were asked to contact
the central office if they were interested. This took place six to eight months before
the first semester of the Residency pilot fall 2010.
The director of Teacher Education and coordinator for School-Based Clinical Practice,
accompanied by a representative of the central office, met with six interested principals
from schools that were also identified as those that had strong leadership and excellent
teachers (teachers who not only excel at teaching, but who could serve well in the
critical role of mentor teacher).
In visits with each principal, the conversation centered on the details of the residencies
and how each school’s teachers would be involved in helping the University to design
the nature of Residency 1. The principals identified only those teachers they considered
to be a good fit with the requirements of the mentor teacher. All mentor teachers
were hand-picked; at some schools eight were chosen, at other schools as many as 12.
Subsequent meetings in late May 2010 were held with the teachers, and by the end of
that month plans had been mutually formulated and agreed to. It was agreed that candidates
should assist the mentor teachers at least one day before the opening of school. It
was also agreed that the candidates would be at the school all day during the first
week of school to see how routines were established and how much had to be done.
To ensure a successful launch of Residency 1 of the Residency Year, three visits were
made to each school between August 7 and September 9. The launch has been successful
and close monitoring of candidates continues from our side of the partnership. Principals
and others involved with the initiative have been complimentary of it. Barbara M.
Hodge, principal of Barret’s Chapel Elementary School, Shelby County Schools, expressed
her feelings this way, “Redesigning the teacher education program and placing the
University of Memphis students for an entire school year was a brilliant decision
that is revolutionizing the typical educational process of becoming a teacher.
“The evolutionary process of learning to teach is taking root while the students observe
their cooperating teacher and work with the children from the very beginning of the
school year. Involving the university students in setting up a classroom, preparing
for student registration, and participating in in-service activities allows them to
enter the world of teaching armed with reality-based knowledge and experience. These
real world lessons could not have been replicated in the university campus arena.
“We are very grateful for this partnership between Shelby County Schools and the University
of Memphis. It has made a dynamic difference in students’ lives at Barret’s Chapel
Dave Carlisle, principal of Riverdale School, Shelby County Schools, said, “I am very
pleased with the direction the University of Memphis' redesign of their teacher preparation
program has taken. Having teacher candidates spend a whole year in a single building
with an excellent mentor teacher will prepare them so much better for the realities
of the classroom. Our Residency I candidates have been here since day one of our school
year, and the relationship between the candidates, mentor teacher, and our students
couldn't be better.”
University administrators, too, praise the approach. Dr. E. Sutton Flynt, director
of Teacher Education for the U of M’s College of Education, said, “To me, the most
satisfying thing about the Ready2Teach redesign of teacher preparation has been the
reaction and support of our K-12 partners. The schools we are partnering with have
universally agreed that this type of “redesign” is long overdue, and they are very
interested in assisting the University in the endeavor.
“I think the richness of the conversations and the shared decision-making is going
to result in the formation of a beginning teacher with a much more sophisticated skill
set. The year-long immersion in a real-world classroom, coupled with a demanding capstone
teaching assessment, will allow our candidates to demonstrate that they will be able
to improve the achievement of all students they are assigned to teach after they complete
the University of Memphis teacher program.”
Summarizing the benefits of the changes, Donald Wagner, dean of the College of Education
at the University of Memphis, said, “Authentic experiences are the hallmark of effective
clinical experience. We are fortunate to have a wonderful partnership with Shelby
County Schools that enables us to bring these authentic experiences to our Residency