By David Lias
A “redesign” of teacher education and education leadership programs that has already been introduced into some University of South Dakota programs will be expanded statewide.
The South Dakota Board of Regents, at its meeting Wednesday on the USD campus, recommended that Jack R. Warner, the Regents executive director and CEO, affirm the commitment to expand and coordinate efforts to redesign all teacher education programs to incorporate a year-long residency.
This means that South Dakota university students pursuing education degrees with the goal of becoming classroom teachers will do more than complete a traditional one semester of student teaching.
Soon most teacher candidates will be engaging in a full-year classroom experience in what’s being described as a “clinical residency model” to culminate their teacher preparation programs.
“If you draw a page from medical education, it will be more like a residency, or more of an internship year-long that gets students actually teaching under the guidance of teachers under schools,” Warner told the Vermillion Plain Talk Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve done this for a few years — Black Hills State University has done it for some years, and it’s worked out pretty successfully for them.”
“It requires some redesign because you have to pack into the other three years all of the academic courses and then there is some academic reinforcement when they are out in the internship,” he said.
Officials from the five public universities that prepare teacher candidates updated regents on this new model of teacher preparation Wednesday.
While a traditional model requires candidates to spend a semester student teaching before they graduate and move into the profession, Black Hills State University has required year-long residencies for a number of years. More recently, with support from the Bush Foundation, the University of South Dakota worked to incorporate this requirement into its teacher education programs.
USD and Dakota State University currently partner with the Sioux Falls School District to provide year-long residencies for a set group of students pursuing certification as elementary teachers.
“The curriculum needs to be redesigned for a couple of reasons. One is to accommodate the additional semester of what used to be called student teaching. There is some coursework that supplements that, so they (student teachers) can write about it, talk about it with their faculty,” Warner said. “The other curriculum redesign really has to do with teaching teachers how to teach to the Common Core Standards, which are the new standards that South Dakota adopted a couple years ago. That’s important because the kind of teaching of is different.”
Warner said the Common Core Standards stress “not just acquiring knowledge, but also applying it to real life situations, and learning how to think critically with the knowledge, how to solve problems with it, how to write about it that shows critical thinking in the writing.”
“These changes have been supported by research and are promoted by a number of professional organizations,” said Sam Gingerich, system vice president for academic affairs. “While each of our universities is in varying stages of implementation, plans generally call for redesigned elementary education programs to come online at all institutions next year, followed by secondary and K-12 programs a year later.”
The curriculum redesign geared toward Common Core Standards, Warner said, will also include changes in teacher assessments that will steer away from multiple choice testing and demand that students “show their work and how they solved a problem. Those are exactly the skills that modern society calls on people to possess, and the ones who possess them will do well in the future, and the ones who don’t, and the countries who don’t, will fall behind.”
The goal is to achieve this redesign with the parameters of the 120 credit-hour standard for most bachelor degree programs. A meeting is planned in early August to bring university faculty from math, science, social science and English together to align disciplinary and professional requirements within the 120 credit hours, taking into consideration a year-long residency component.
In working with K-12 schools to develop this new model. Gingerich said most of those schools so far have been located close to a university campus. In order to bring this concept to more schools, discussions are under way about creating regional “hubs” where multiple campuses could place students in year-long residencies.
“Given South Dakota’s geography, there are large regions of this state that rarely have student teacher placements and the related professional development benefits these interactions with campuses provide,” Gingerich said.
“To do a year-long residency, you have to have some sort of regional presence and regional support for the student teacher,” Warner said. A statewide work group is currently developing details concerning the number of hubs that are needed and where they should be located.
“That’s a particular challenge in South Dakota because of the number of rural systems that we have, and we want them to be part of the experience, too,” he said. “That’s a challenge in a whole lot of different ways.”
This planned redesign will not require any significant new funding.
“I don’t believe that the financial model will require (funding from) a school district, except that it’s in the interest of a school district to be able to hold on to a promising teacher,” Warner said, “so what they get is to look much more intensively at teachers who will come to teach at their school.
“The financial model supports itself; it doesn’t require any more credits than are currently required of students, and I think there are some fees that are associated with student teaching that would extend to that additional semester, but beyond that it’s not a big financial impact,” he said.