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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Professional Development School Partnership Holds Conference at TC

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Professional Development School Partnership Holds Conference at TC

Keynote speaker Marsha Levine

"We envision this conference as a working conference. We hope you will offer your ideas." So said Michele Genor, Assistant Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and the interim director of the Professional Development School (PDS) program at Teachers College, in welcoming those in attendance at the May 30th PDS Conference and 4th Annual Sharing Fair.

This event was the first opportunity that the Teachers College PDS Partnership has had to hold a conference, Genor said. Since former director Naomi Hill resigned her role in the Partnership, extra funds were available to organize the conference, pay for substitutes so teachers from the partner schools could attend, as well as providing mini-grants and compensation for travel to other conferences throughout the year. "We may not be able to do it again," Genor explained, saying that once a director is hired, that money will be going toward a salary once again.

Teachers College has been involved in Professional Development Schools since 1988, when it established a PDS at P.S.87 in NYC School District 3. In the PDS Partnership, there is a formal commitment between a university and certain schools-and schools in partnership with a university can be the equivalent of a teaching hospital. The TC partnership grew to include other schools such as P.S. 207, P.S. 165, Middle School 44, and the Beacon High School, an alternative school of secondary education. All are on the West Side of Manhattan.

The conference, attended by teachers from active partner schools and representatives of Hunter College, who are involved in developing a PDS program there, included workshops on various topics concerning PDS work. A discussion on action research, a term describing examination of one's own practice, looked into the process and practice of developing a researchable question.

A session on technology discussed using the computer as a tool to enhance learning, providing examples of curriculum projects that were in line with standards.

Afternoon sessions included "Mentoring Pre-Service and Beginning Teachers," that explored how to maintain positive relationships between cooperating teachers and student teachers. A session on Grant Funding looked at funding options and how to develop an action plan for ongoing funding activities.

The keynote speaker for the event was Marsha Levine, whose work in public education reform and improvement of quality education for children includes having co-developed a project to support teachers' preparation for National Board Certification. Working with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Levine directed a national project that designed and field-tested standards for professional development schools. She is currently senior consultant to NCATE for Professional Development Schools.

Levine noted that Professional Development Schools benefit everyone involved by preparing future teachers through practice, reflection with the help of mentors, bringing universities and schools together, providing a better student/teacher ratio, and providing a strategy to improve low performing schools. "The impact on children is well-known," Levine said, adding that PDS programs change instructional patterns, which also reduces teacher turn-over. These differences are so important that two states-Maryland and Louisiana-actually require professional development school partnerships.

Maryland has a state-wide PDS network along with the involvement and support of the State Department of Education. North Carolina also strongly encourages PDS partnerships through support with grants from the state.

"The potential of these kinds of partnerships to make a difference in terms of teacher quality and student achievement is very high," Levine said. "The field of medicine had an enormous change 100 years ago when the introduction of teaching hospitals revolutionized the practice of medicine and made differences in that practice." "PDS partnerships," she added, "have the possibility of making that level of change in schools."previous page