Holmes Group Expands Scope To Link Colleges, Schools
After a 10-year quest for better ways to educate teachers, the Holmes Group has acknowledged that higher education can't do the job all by itself.
The premier network concerned with revitalizing teacher education is fashioning itself into a new organization that will link colleges and universities with schools and districts.
In its broader incarnation, the Holmes Partnership will pursue the agenda for improving schools and teacher preparation set forth by the Holmes Group in an influential trilogy of reports over the past decade. The group of education deans from 90 research institutions and historically black colleges announced the changes at its annual meeting here Jan. 26-28.
The expanded scope and wider participation reflect a growing belief among the group's members that school reform is too complex to be accomplished by any single set of players.
"The Holmes Group has figured out that education schools aren't going to be able to get the work done just by talking to education schools," said Frank Murray, a professor of education at the University of Delaware and the interim president of the Holmes Partnership.
The Holmes Group grew out of meetings organized in the early 1980s by education school deans at leading research universities. At a time of intense public scrutiny of the quality of schools and teachers, the deans were concerned about accreditation standards and the low status of teacher education programs in their institutions.
In 1986, with an expanded membership, the Holmes Group issued an influential report arguing that teaching should be transformed from an occupation into a profession.
Since then, it has called for the creation of professional-development schools and the overhaul of education schools to make their work more relevant to the challenges faced by teachers and administrators.
The Holmes Partnership will have two types of members.
"Partnerships" will bring together, at a minimum, a single college or university and a school or school district.
Professional organizations, such as the national teachers' unions, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the national associations representing school administrators and school board members, will be invited to join the group as "partners."
The group has appointed a transitional board of directors charged over the next six months with hiring a full-time executive director, inviting prospective members to join, and electing five new board members who represent partnerships. Nancy Zimpher, the dean of the college of education at Ohio State University in Columbus has been named the chairwoman of the interim board.
Within three years, the group's entire board of directors will be drawn from the partnerships and partner organizations. To ensure that the new organizationreflects its diverse members, its bylaws limit how many board members can be from higher education.
To be eligible for membership, partnerships of universities and schools must include a professional-development school.
These schools have been a central focus of the Holmes Group's reform efforts--places where veteran teachers, education students, and professors work together to conduct research, polish teaching techniques, and shepherd new members into the profession.
Partnerships could also include other colleges and universities in a region or state, and local professional organizations and associations. Forty-eight partnerships already have said they will join the new organization.
The initial members of the Holmes Partnership will be chosen for their capacity to carry out the reforms the Holmes Group has advocated, Ms. Zimpher said.
They must be able to conduct research, create innovative programs, attend to issues of equity and diversity, and prepare professors and teachers who can succeed with all types of students.
"The trick is in taking strategic action now that we have people at the table who can make it happen," she said.
As a start, Ms. Zimpher added, the new board will select four or five goals to pursue from among the numerous recommendations made in the Holmes Group's three reports: Tomorrow's Teachers (1986), Tomorrow's Schools (1990), and Tomorrow's Schools of Education (1995).
These reports emphasized making teacher training more intellectually rigorous, connecting education schools to K-12 schools and making schools better places for teachers to work, creating professional-development schools, and conducting useful educational research.
The Holmes Partnership is also expected to create the standards and accountability mechanisms that some critics said its predecessor lacked. Ms. Zimpher said, for example, that new members might produce annual progress reports.
The organization may eventually require partnerships to create formal compacts to cement their relationships.
"You need to have in place a contractual agreement so that when personalities change, the partnership sustains itself," said John Grossman, the president of the Columbus Education Association, which represents teachers in the Ohio capital. "There are too many random acts of reform."
Mr. Grossman, a member of the Holmes Partnership's transitional board, noted that his union has been working with Ohio State, a local administrators' organization, and 17 school districts to improve teacher preparation.
"This is long overdue," he said of the new emphasis on collaboration. "We have had people busy in the same field, but too long suspicious of one another. Finally, we've come to our senses and understand we can't do things entirely by ourselves."
Mr. Grossman and others at the annual meeting said they hope the Holmes Partnership will forge standards for professional-development schools that will make sense out of the proliferation of such projects nationwide.
Preliminary findings from a report on the Holmes Group's progress over its 10-year history, shared during the annual meeting here, show that the majority of Holmes institutions have formed closer ties with local school districts and have set up professional-development schools.
The study, expected to be completed next month, also found that these reforms were in an early stage and had not yet produced broad changes in teacher education curricula or in the research agendas of their faculty members.
It concludes that the Holmes Group got off to an vigorous start, but that enthusiasm for reform of teacher education has waned in the past five years.
Many educators said at the meeting they hope the Holmes Partnership will provide the focus and direction needed to make real headway in teacher education reform.
"I'm ready," said Richard C. Kunkle, the dean of the college of education at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. He said the university has been working in a partnership arrangement with local educators for five years.
"For two years, [Holmes] has been looking at its purposes and mission," he said. "Now, this meeting has started shifting away from just organizational kinds of things."