School-College Joint Efforts Said To Remain Elusive

March 15, 1989 4 min read

Anaheim, Calif.--Collaboration between schools and universities was the theme here for the 41st annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

But after nearly 50 separate sessions on the topic, several teacher educators still found themselves wondering how serious education schools are about working closely with school districts.

“A lot of people are talking as if collaboration is the new ‘C’ word,” said Ann Lieberman, executive director of the Puget Sound Educational Consortium and professor of education at the University of Washington. “But up until now, we have not really collaborated. The kinds of things that we’re doing in our preservice programs have little or no connection with what goes on in schools.”

Several presenters, including Ms. Lieberman, did talk about longstanding, substantive efforts to work cooperatively with schools. These include the super Project at the University of California at Berkeley, the Puget Sound initiative, and a collaborative effort between Queens College and the Louis Armstrong Middle School in New York.

But as John I. Goodlad, professor of education at the University of Washington, noted, developing truly equal partnerships between universities and schools is going to be “very, very difficult.”

“It’s as difficult to fulfill and as easy to break as a marriage between two people,” he said.

Many educators wondered how to tell if a university’s efforts are serious. One sign is if the university puts any money behind its initiatives, experts said. Another is if key administrators, including the university president, have lent their weight to the collaboration. If faculty members who are high on the professional “totem pole” are also involved in the partnership, they added, that is a good signal.

When such efforts are serious, noted Sidney Trubowitz, director of a collaborative project between the State University of New York at Buffalo and surrounding schools, they can have “real value.”

“It’s a place for things to be tried and to illustrate that commonly held limitations need not exist,” he said.

Meanwhile, conference-goers expressed some disappointment with this year’s theme, which they said helped contribute to the low-key nature of the meeting.

As one educator noted, collaboration is a “mild and mellow term.”

“It could be a theme that leads to a high degree of placidness,” he said.

Others attributed the lack of controversy at this year’s gathering to a variety of causes, including the sense of comradeship that education deans felt after months of being buffeted by policymakers back home.

Some deans have also undertaken real reforms on their campuses, observers noted, and are feeling rather pleased with themselves.

But at least one dean suggested that aacte’s members were skirting the real issue: a growing division within the organization between those who want to take a “proactive” role in reform and those who are hoping that it will all just go away.

Mr. Goodlad hinted that he may stir things up a bit in 1990, when he releases his multiyear study on the preparation of teachers.

In a videotape entitled “Educating Educators,” released during the meeting, the prominent scholar provided some advance glimpses of the ''sobering” findings garnered from his time spent on college and university campuses.

“Very few of the college and university presidents interviewed placed teacher education anywhere near the top of their priorities,” he said in the videotape.

In addition, although deans of arts and sciences were quick to criticize their education-school colleagues, he charged, they were slow to get involved in helping them.

Mr. Goodlad also found that efforts to recruit minority students into teaching were “weak and seriously underfunded.” And education-school professors were “benumbed” by yet another round of teaching prescriptions imposed by the states.

The glossy videotape, produced by aacte in collaboration with Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., makes a strong case for improving the operation of schools and the education of educators.

The documentary combines footage of expert teaching with statements from such education leaders and policymakers as Patricia Albjerg Graham, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association; Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers; former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. of North Carolina; and U.S. Representative Pat Williams of Montana.

The 22-minute videotape, aimed at state policymakers, educators, and college presidents, was produced with the support of the Exxon Education Foundation. Copies are available from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The meeting’s participants also got a preview of what the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is up to.

In separate sessions, Bill Honig, superintendent of public instruction in California and a member of the board, and Joan Baratz-Snowden, the board’s vice president for assessment and research, previewed some of the thinking that might guide the standards for what teachers should know and be able to do.

They argued that teachers must, for example: be committed to students and know how children learn; know the subjects they teach and how to teach them to youngsters; be responsible for managing and monitoring student learning, including the use of a variety of assessment tools; be able to think systematically and learn from experience; and be members of a professional community, who can work together on curriculum and staff development and work effectively with parents.--lo

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 1989 edition of Education Week as School-College Joint Efforts Said To Remain Elusive