August 23, 2010

iTeachAZ boasts decade-long track record of teacher preparation

Posted: August 23, 2010
Classroom setting
Michelle Rojas (left), director of iTeachAZ teacher education programs, works with ASU students Viviana Perez and Maricel Zubia from the Avondale Elementary School District's iTeachAZ program. The video screen shows iTeachAZ students at another location who are connecting with colleagues via videoconference.

An Arizona State University program that immerses future teachers in school settings across the state has a new name and expanding mission.

iTeachAZ, building on ASU’s Professional Development School (PDS) program, engages in partnerships with school districts in metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson as well as Arizona’s rural and Native American communities to help those districts “grow their own” teachers. iTeachAZ gives students three times the hands-on experience in K-12 classroom settings as traditional teacher preparation programs. In rural communities, students benefit from access to a university degree and teacher certification without having to face the sometimes insurmountable obstacle of relocating to an urban area.

“The name iTeachAZ captures the student-centered nature of the program,” said Mari Koerner, dean of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“iTeachAZ embeds students in the world of K-12 education,” Koerner said. “They take university classes on-site in their partner school district, teach side-by-side with experienced teachers, participate in professional development activities and parent-teacher conferences, and benefit from an on-site mentoring support system. New iTeachAZ graduates emerge from the program with proven teaching skills and tremendous confidence in their ability to step into classrooms and be effective teachers from their first day on the job.”

The roots of iTeachAZ date back to 1999, when Teachers College and the Osborn Elementary School District in central Phoenix initiated the program at Longview Elementary School. More than a decade later, iTeachAZ has established partnerships with 15 school districts in metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson and another six with districts in locations from Chinle and Window Rock in northeastern Arizona to Douglas in the southeast and Yuma to the west.

Patricia Tate, assistant superintendent of the Osborn District, has been involved with iTeachAZ since the program’s inception. “This year Osborn students posted their highest achievement ever on the AIMS Reading assessments, and our partnership with ASU directly supported this success,” she said.

“Collaboratively delivered and implemented in the context of our low-income, inner-city schools, the iTeachAZ program offers not only new teacher preparation, but also resources to improve Osborn’s instructional practice, support district-wide action research and increase student achievement,” Tate said.  “During our 12-year partnership, faculty and staff from ASU and Osborn have planned, implemented, argued, analyzed, celebrated and refined our practice to continuously improve results and benefit students – ours as well as ASU’s.”

“iTeachAZ is a true partnership that cannot succeed without the full commitment and support of the school district,” said Scott Ridley, Teachers College associate dean of community outreach and partnerships, who originated the first partnership with Osborn. “ASU students in the iTeachAZ program become embedded in the culture of the partner district and are extremely well-prepared to assume permanent teaching positions when they graduate. At the same time, Teachers College works closely with each partner district to improve pedagogic outcomes for all students. iTeachAZ targets high-need schools and communities, where we can have an especially meaningful impact.”

“Our iTeachAZ partnership with ASU began more than six years ago,” said Cathy Stafford, superintendent of the Avondale Elementary School District. “While the benefits for ASU students may be obvious, our elementary and middle school students have richly benefited as well.

“The ASU students study the latest research and strategies for improving student achievement during their evening classes and the next morning walk into our classrooms. They work side-by-side with our experienced teachers, providing the highest-quality instructional environments for our students. This partnership has strengthened our academic progress. And, our students are demonstrating higher achievement levels,” Stafford said.

Over the years, ASU has successfully competed for millions of dollars in federal grants helping iTeachAZ to expand both in size and in the level of support provided to ASU students and partner districts. Most recently, a $33.8 million, five-year U.S. Department of Education grant enabled Teachers College to establish the NEXT Project. Besides taking on more partner districts, the NEXT grant is expanding the scope of work in several districts to implement comprehensive school reform and full-range professional development including a two-year induction program for new teachers.

iTeachAZ began as an elementary education program, and currently most partner districts offer elementary education degrees with a full ELL (English Language Learner) endorsement. Dual certification special education programs will begin in three additional districts in Spring 2011. In the Fall 2011 semester, iTeachAZ’s first secondary education program will commence, in collaboration with Phoenix Union High School District.

In addition to Osborn, Avondale and Phoenix Union, iTeachAZ partner districts include Pendergast Elementary, Glendale Elementary, Deer Valley Unified, Paradise Valley Unified, Mesa Public Schools, Madison Elementary, University Public Schools, Roosevelt Elementary, Dysart Unified, Scottsdale Unified, Kyrene Elementary, Chinle Unified, Ganado Unified, Window Rock Unified, Sunnyside Unified, Douglas Unified, Gadsden Elementary, and San Carlos Unified.

ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers world-class academic programs for educators and scholars preparing to enter or advance in the profession. Teachers College provides challenging education programs to prepare successful and highly qualified PreKindergarten-12th grade teachers as well as programs for those interested in advanced study and research activities leading to careers in school leadership, school and educational psychology, education policy, education technology, higher and post-secondary education, and many other fields.  ASU’s graduate programs in education are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the nation’s best. Teachers College graduates are confident, effective professionals who work to transform the lives of students and the character of schools and communities. More information is available at http://education.asu.edu.

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