Restructured Holmes Partnership Draws Record Attendance

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Restructured Holmes Partnership Draws Record Attendance: If numbers are any indication, the decision three years ago by what was then called the Holmes Group to broaden its membership beyond education schools to K-12 schools and districts has found a receptive audience.

More than 900 people--including city council members, business people, professors, union leaders, teachers, superintendents, and social-service providers--braved the cold here last month to attend the partnership's third annual conference. The number was triple that of the first meeting of the partnership.

Nancy Zimpher

"This is the only national gathering where the centerpiece is partnerships" between schools and higher education, said Nancy Zimpher, the president of the Holmes Partnership and the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "They are not here as guests--they're here because of the transition to the Holmes Partnership. Everyone is equal."

The Holmes Group, a consortium of 96 research universities that was dedicated to the improvement of teacher education, started in 1985 and produced a trilogy of influential reports on the topic before reorganizing under its current name in 1996. At that time, its leaders concluded that education schools couldn't do the job alone.

Today, the partnership, which changed its membership criteria, has 78 university-school local partnerships and six "national partners," including the teachers' unions. Members must agree to adhere to the Holmes principles. Each pays $5,000 in annual dues.

Mary Hatwood Futrell

Members of the Holmes Partnership's board of directors have launched a search for a new chief executive to lead the organization, which plans to move to headquarters in Washington. Mary Hatwood Futrell, the dean of George Washington University's graduate school of education and human development and a former president of the National Education Association, is the elected chairwoman of the board.

Currently, Richard Kunkel, the dean of the Auburn University college of education in Alabama, serves as the executive director of the partnership. But when the new administrator is hired, probably in the next six months, both Mr. Kunkel and Ms. Zimpher will step down, and the presidential post will be eliminated.

In keeping with Holmes' previous efforts, much of the local partnerships' work centers around professional-development schools. Those schools are supposed to serve three purposes: helping prepare new teachers, offering on-the-job learning for veteran teachers, and providing research opportunities for scholars.

A major challenge for the local partnerships will be creating enough spots in professional-development schools to train all their prospective teachers, said Tom Mooney, the president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers and a member of the Holmes Partnership's board.

Mr. Mooney also said partnerships need to work more closely with teachers' associations. Unions can help negotiate arrangements for new teachers to work in schools, he said, adding that teacher groups' lack of involvement in many places is a "really big gap."

The partnerships provide formal ways for universities and schools to discuss the preparation of new teachers, said Dale Frederick, the superintendent of the Pittsburgh public schools.

The Pittsburgh School District University Collaborative involves four major universities, three associate institutions, and the district.

"Universities are in the same position with me as I am with my business community," Mr. Frederick observed. "They have to prepare the workforce for the future."

For Dan Natale, the principal of Parkway Central Middle School in Chesterfield, Mo., the Jan. 29-31 meeting was a perfect chance to scout for better ways to teach reading to middle schoolers, as well as hobnob with people interested in teacher education. Through the partnership in his area, Mr. Natale said, he's gained a voice he never thought he'd have. "This is a middle school principal helping to change what goes on in a university."

Participants spent much of their time in 13 "work teams" talking about their reform efforts and taking notes for an upcoming report on partnerships. Topics included technology, standards, portfolio assessment, teacher-conducted research, and tenure and promotion for university faculty members involved in local partnerships.

In response to complaints about a lack of research on professional-development schools and documentation of Holmes' work, the partnership unveiled a site on the World Wide Web that will allow members to put their key documents on the Internet. The site, at, will allow people to compare documents governing partnerships, for example, and to post policies governing promotion and tenure for faculty members who work closely with schools.

Hendrik Gideonse, the retired dean of the University of Cincinnati's education school, created the site, which he called "a repository of detritus of teacher education reform."

While the Holmes Group has changed significantly, it has continued to maintain its Holmes Scholars program. Forty Holmes institutions sponsor the scholars, who are members of minority groups interested in becoming education professors.

Since the program's inception in 1991, some 230 graduate students have participated in the program; 54 are now in tenure-track positions in colleges and universities. The fellows receive tuition assistance and positions as teaching assistants.

The Holmes meeting each year includes networking opportunities for the scholars, who also present papers on their research topics. The gatherings, of course, also offer prime opportunities for deans to recruit the scholars, who are particularly attractive because many education schools want to diversify their faculties.

Steven T. Bossert, the dean of the Syracuse University school of education in New York, said he's recently hired three Holmes Scholars. "Before, the recruitment I did was hit or miss," he said. "Now, I know that I can have at least one, if not more, candidates for each position."

--Ann Bradley

Vol. 18, Issue 22, Page 8

Published in Print: February 10, 1999, as Restructured Holmes Partnership Draws Record Attendance
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