California State University, Long Beach
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COE Dean, Professors Off to Washington D.C. to Participate in “Day on the Hill”

CSULB’s College of Education will participate in the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s 4th annual “Day on the Hill” on June 18-19 in Washington D.C.

College of Education Dean Jean Houck will be joined by colleagues Linda Symcox and Felipe Golez at the organization’s premiere advocacy event of the year. This year’s gathering will spotlight partnerships between schools teaching kindergarten through the 12th grade and higher education that have resulted in improvements to low-performing campuses. CSULB’s program is the school-based Urban Teaching Academy, master's and a teacher preparation program under the direction of Symcox and Golez.

CSULB will see its Urban Teaching Academy and its partnership with the Long Beach Unified School District profiled in a new AACTE publication as well as in live testimony before the U.S Congress. Similar partnerships will be recognized at Black Hills State University in South Dakota, Montclair State University in New Jersey, National-Louis University in Illinois and Stanford University.

On June 18, participants from AACTE institutions will hear about implementation of the new TEACH grants and receive an orientation to working with representatives on Capitol Hill. A reception that evening will allow policy makers and educators to mingle and honor Rep. George Miller (D-Ca.) with the Association’s first Congressional Leadership Award.

The program continues on June 19 with a congressional briefing on “Partnerships That Work: Turning Around Low-Performing Schools.” Following the briefing, AACTE participants will visit their congressional delegations and will reconvene at the end of the day to share their experiences.

One person per team is selected to make a presentation to a member of Congress. For the CSULB-LBUSD partnership, the presentation will be made by Christopher Steinhauser, LBUSD superintendent and recent recipient of CSULB’s 2008 President’s Distinguished Service Award. Steinhauser received his Bachelor of Arts, Multiple-Subject Credential, Master of Arts in Educational Administration and Administrative Services Credential from CSULB.

“The theme of the event is how residency programs from universities and urban school districts like ours with the LBUSD can help to turn around local schools,” said Houck, who joined the university in 1990. “This is the power of partnership. The 'on-site' aspects of these programs is what we believe makes these programs so special. By delivering these programs on-site, we are able to tailor them to the specific needs of the school."

CSULB’s Urban Teaching Academy was recognized for its success in helping to prepare quality teachers to staff high-need urban schools. Symcox and Golez have guided six cohorts through the on-site master's degree program at several local schools, including Bret Harte Elementary School, Gompers Elementary, Grant Elementary and Whittier Elementary — all in the Long Beach Unified School District — and Niemes Elementary in the ABC Unified School District. Currently they have residency master’s cohorts at Harte Elementary, Bancroft Middle School, and Carver Elementary in LBUSD and Paddison Elementary in Little Lake City School District.

For example, each master's program has three elective courses designed around the needs of the school. If the school is a science magnet, then the focus is on science-related classes. If the school has received a computer grant, then the electives can focus on that area. In addition, students spend a year doing action research where they work in teams and study problems within their own schools. First they review the research literature. Then, they do a classroom intervention and write up how they conducted their project and the results. This information is shared in a colloquium.

"In our two-year master’s program, students spend two days a week in seminars with their colleagues conducting scholarly research, studying theories of learning, best teaching practices and curriculum development, and applying this knowledge to daily practice.  This cumulative knowledge really penetrates the school culture," said Symcox, a Pacific Palisades resident who joined the university in 2000. "And, it’s democratic. Students choose their own research projects. That's very different from a top-down model of reform that is often imposed upon teachers. So, the program is popular for that reason."

Golez sees a bright future for the program. “I see this program as a way to improve urban schools everywhere,” he said. “This program is my mission. The loop of learning where teachers are prepared and sustained in their professional development is powerful. I’m pleased with the change in cultural ambience thanks to CSULB’s participation at the six school sites. I think what we’ve done here can be transplanted everywhere. Everyone is looking for a way to improve schools.”

Houck feels the most important element of the UTA is the way it prepares new teachers. “I think of teacher preparation in much the same way as I think about planting new trees,” she said. “It’s an investment in the future.  This Academy is for the long haul. The professional development for the master’s program on site in the schools is a powerful intervention.”

The American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) is a national voluntary association of higher education institutions and other organizations and is dedicated to ensuring the highest quality preparation and continuing professional development for teachers and school leaders in order to enhance PK-12 student learning. The almost 800 institutions holding AACTE membership include private, state, and municipal colleges and universities large and small located in every state, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Collectively, the AACTE membership prepares more than two-thirds of the new teachers entering schools each year in the United States.

“Day on the Hill” was started in 2005 to build better connections between Association members and their representatives in Congress and to enhance AACTE’s advocacy efforts on behalf of educator preparation programs. Attendance has grown from 30 participants in 2005 to more than 160 in 2007.

Houck believes the value of the program is that student teachers can use what they learn in the classroom practically on the same day they learn it. “When class lets out after school, they can take the instruction they received in a site-based CSULB program and put it to use in their own classrooms to see how it works. Teachers find themselves teaching what they just talked about.”