Education professor leads revisions of national standards for school-university partnerships

Drew Polly
Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Drew Polly, a professor in the Department of Reading and Elementary Education, is one of eight experts across the country who led the revision of the national standards for partnerships between universities at K-12 schools in preparing future teachers.

Released by the National Association of Professional Development Schools, “What it Means to be a Professional Development School (PDS): The Nine Essentials (2nd Edition)” provides a framework for communities of collaboration between the two groups.

A PDS (also known as school-university partnerships) is a reciprocal learning relationship between universities and P-12 schools based on the medical school/teaching hospital model. Teacher candidates preparing to become new teachers work side by side with mentor teachers similar to a residency in the medical field.

“These nine essentials represent a list of recommendations based on research to help teacher education programs and schools that are starting or continuing partnerships to support the next generation of teachers. Teacher education programs are only as strong as their partnerships with local schools and districts and this document provides a north star for those mutually beneficial relationships,” Polly said.

PDS’s have been described by former American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education president and CEO Sharon Robinson as “effective, evidence-based school–university partnership models in many sites across the nation, providing academic content and pedagogical instruction that is well integrated with extensive, closely supervised, hands-on in-school clinical experience.”

Recognizing their importance, the Cato College of Education has embarked on its own efforts to strengthen partnerships with local school districts. Since 2017, the college has hosted the Teacher Education Institute (TEI), a unique summer program helping to reshape teacher education and break down silos for college faculty, K-12 teachers and clinical educators. The program is funded by the Belk Foundation, allowing TEI participants to learn strategies for coaching student teachers and the core practices of teacher preparation programs. Since the inaugural event in summer 2017, approximately 300 teacher educators have participated in TEI. 

“The Nine Essentials” revision is the culmination of several years’ of work by the NAPDS committee. The group worked to identify the relevance of the essentials, which were originally published in 2008, and how they are used in the field by schools of education and P-12 schools. The document brings to light an updated version of the nine essentials grounded in key concepts and educational research.  

Polly served as one of the primary authors of the document and worked with nearly 50 individuals representing both P-12 schools and universities nationwide. Through focus groups, collaborative work groups and symposia, the expertise provided contributed greatly to the development of the final document. 

The publication of this report represents the beginning of the NAPDS “Year of the Nine Essentials.”  From March 2021 through February 2022, NAPDS will host monthly webinars and podcasts which will focus on strengthening P-12 school university partnerships and using the essentials to develop high quality teacher education programs.

Founded in 2005, NAPDS is the leading national organization supporting the critical linkage between higher education and public schools for the clinical preparation of new teachers and ongoing professional development of veteran educators.  The Association has members in 43 states and 6 countries.