NCTR is currently running a multi-part blog series which highlights our work and the work of our partners at the California State University (CSU) system through the New Generation of Educators Initiative. In “Part Five: Three Perspectives On Launching A Residency from California State University, Fresno” Drs. Paul Beare, Cathy Yun and Lisa Bennett write about the university’s important partnerships with both rural and urban school districts, their focus on teacher professional development and the rewards and challenges of building three different residencies – each with a unique focus.

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Paul Beare, PhD

Dean, Fresno State Kremen School of Education & Human Development

At Fresno State, we believe that we must work in partnership with school districts in order to understand and be responsive to their specific community contexts. Fresno State’s teacher education programs have been partnership-based for over 10 years. Over the last decade years, we have built partnerships with multiple school districts across the region. Our partner school districts range from one-school rural communities to giant urban districts; our partner Fresno Unified is the fourth largest district in the state. We feel that it is especially important for us to partner with those smaller, rural communities, which may not always have the resources or capital to fully serve their students and support their classroom teachers.

Over the years, different partnerships have grown at various rates. Some have come and gone, others have plateaued, but a few have grown in scope and depth. Our relationships with partner districts change over time based on the individual needs of each district. Currently, the massive teacher shortage in our region has made the need for university-school district partnerships even more crucial. We are so excited about the work that Cathy Yun and Lisa Bennett are doing to enhance our commitment to serving our districts by building on our previous partnership and residency work. They have successfully applied the lessons we have learned over the past 10 years to enhancing each of our new residencies. They have been the driving force in taking our partnership programs to the next level.

Cathy Yun, PhD

Assistant Professor, Coordinator of Early Childhood Education Programs, Early Childhood Education and Development

Why do we do what we do? Teacher educators have the obligation to help develop reflective practitioners who effectively serve the needs of all students. Yet, at the university, we are several degrees removed from directly impacting student outcomes. So, how then do we impact elementary school students? Through partnerships with districts and schools, we can increase the teacher educator presence on school campuses and provide additional resources. It allows and empowers teacher educators to not just loosely partner with schools and districts, but to collaborate on substantive issues such as teacher preparation curriculum, clinical experiences, and professional development for residents. Through such collaborative planning, university and district stakeholders can combine resources to address specific, contextualized challenges, gaps, and needs. For example, at Fresno State, we are augmenting the residency model by applying evidence-based practices from research on the Professional Development School (PDS) model. Through application of effective PDS practices, we hope to help increase teacher leader capacity in our partner districts and school sites. In our model, we collaborate with district leaders to co-plan and implement district-aligned professional development for both residents and their mentor teachers, as well as university faculty and school and district administrators. Through this collaborative approach to professional development, university faculty can benefit from school district innovations, district teachers and administrators can benefit from exposure to current research and evidence-based practices, and residents can benefit from both.

Lisa Bennett, PhD

Assistant Professor, Coordinator of Multiple Subject Credential Program, Literacy and Practitioner Inquiry

We have been asked, “How can you be district serving when your residents/teacher candidates feed into multiple school districts?” Fresno State serves a region that spans five counties and hundreds of miles, many of them rural, agricultural communities with large migrant populations. While it would be easy to focus our work on the largest and most proximal urban districts, we realized that we would be failing to truly serve our community’s needs if we limited our focus to these sites. For us, this is an issue of equity, access, and our personal commitments to social justice. As a result, we have committed to creating three new residencies in three different districts in our work with NCTR. This decision has enabled us to build pipelines into teaching that are context specific and ensure that graduates from our program are more evenly distributed across districts. In addition, when we offer our teacher candidates multiple pathways, we find that they are eager to return to their home communities and “give back.” If we only offered one district for our residency pathway, students would have to choose between returning to their home communities and a truly immersive teacher preparation experience. When we decided on this approach to residency development, we knew that each residency would take on a unique character and would reflect the vision and strengths of the context.  For that reason, we have embarked on three separate journeys into residency design and implementation, using the NCTR institutes and materials to scaffold our work. Yes, this is more work than housing all of our residency cohorts in one district, but the results of the effort are essential to the well-being of our greater region.