The Bush Foundation and 14 colleges and universities – including the University of St. Thomas – yesterday announced a 10-year, $40 million effort to transform teacher-education programs in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The foundation’s investment will enable the redesign of teacher-preparation programs at its partner institutions: Augsburg College, Bethel University, Concordia University, Hamline University,  Minnesota State University-Mankato, University of Minnesota, Minnesota State University-Moorhead, North Dakota State University, St. Catherine University, St. Cloud State University, St. Thomas, University of South Dakota, Valley City State University (in Valley City, N.D.) and Winona State University.

Collectively over the next decade, these institutions will produce at least 25,000 new teachers. That’s a third of the number of teachers expected to retire or leave the profession in the three states in the next 10 years.

The Bush funds will enable six Twin Cities private colleges and universities to work collaboratively as the Twin Cities Teacher Collaborative – TC2 – to redesign their programs. Three institutions in the Red River Valley –  MSU-Moorhead, North Dakota State and Valley City State – will work collaboratively as well.

In a news conference Wednesday at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Bush Foundation President Peter Hutchinson said the initiative aims to increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who go on to college. “Consistent, effective teaching,” he said, “can close the achievement gap” – disparities in academic achievement among diverse student groups. Hutchinson thanked the higher education institutions “for stepping forward to make a difference … that will last a lifetime for these students.”

The program is the biggest single investment the foundation has ever made, Hutchinson said.

The foundation-institution partnership is expected to yield programs that guarantee teacher effectiveness, said Susan Heegard, vice president and educational achievement team leader for the Bush Foundation. Each of the redesigned programs will: 

  • Intentionally recruit those students most likely to succeed as effective teachers. TC2 , for example, will target initially students with rich life experiences, such as mid-career professions, military veterans and early retirees.
  • Employ co-teaching strategies, residency programs and immersion experiences to better prepare teacher candidates.
  • Place the new teachers in partner school districts.
  • Provide ongoing support and mentorship to new teachers over the first three to five years of their professional lives.

Dr. Bruce Kramer, dean of St. Thomas’ College of Applied Professional Studies, called the opportunity for UST to work collaboratively with five other institutions a “once-in-a-lifetime chance” to be part of a national dialogue on teacher preparation. “The TC2 institutions prepare more teachers than some of the largest universities in the country,” Kramer said. “Nearly 20 percent of the teachers in this state come from our six institutions. Now we have an opportunity to work together, learn from each other and collaboratively realize a broader goal.”

St. Thomas already does “a lot of things right” in its teacher-preparation programs, Kramer said. “For example, our Collaborative Urban Educator (CUE) program is a model for the recruitment of experienced professionals to the teaching profession, and in our undergraduate program there are many transition points where student performance is vetted … . Teacher candidates are looked at very closely, and their performance in the school setting is constantly evaluated.”

Dr. Douglas Warring, chair of the Department of Graduate Teacher Education and director of continuing education in the St. Thomas School of Education, served on the planning committee for TC2.  “Support from our partner institutions and the Bush Foundation has enabled us to engage in a multipronged approach over the past year,” Warring said. “We’ve engaged in productive discussions concerning the future of our P-12 students and teachers. We have examined current research and successful models nationwide. These have all been extremely useful as we strive to meet current and future challenges in the field of teacher education.”

Kramer said the redesigned TC2 program will be highly experiential, hinging on inservice mentors as much as preservice teachers. “Mentor training will translate into our being more diligent as to how we assess and counsel our preservice candidates. We’ll be able to guarantee that we have vetted the student teachers because they’ve been with master teachers in classroom settings. And we’ll be with them for the first five years of their professional lives.

“Research on teacher attrition and retention tells us that the first five years are really critical to their success,” Kramer said. “By following graduates, we ensure a successful transition into their new profession.”

At the news conference St. Thomas alumna Bernadeia Johnson, ’93 M.A., deputy superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, lauded the effort’s collaborative nature. “We cannot do this work alone,” Johnson said. “Our students benefit when higher education and K-12 schools work together. … Some of this has to do with the will to act.”

To support the work of its education partners, the Bush Foundation also will work with the University of Wisconsin-based Value-Added Research Center to develop assessment tools and reporting mechanisms that teachers, schools and higher-education institutions can use to measure effectiveness and improve performance.

The Bush Foundation was established in 1953 by 3M executive Archibald Bush and his wife, Edyth.

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