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Introduction to the Special Issue

by Todd I. Herrenkohl & Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl - 2019

In an attempt to explore innovative models to improve student achievement, close the opportunity gap, and deepen the knowledge and skills of current and future educators, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill in 2012 that created a pilot project called Collaborative Schools for Innovation and Success (CSIS). This introduction describes the processes followed by the site teams as they prepared and then implemented their school improvement goals. It also highlights several broad contributions of the CSIS effort and introduces the articles of the special issue.

In an attempt to explore innovative models to improve student achievement, close the opportunity gap, and deepen the knowledge and skills of current and future educators, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill in 2012 that created a pilot project called Collaborative Schools for Innovation and Success (CSIS). CSIS supported three poverty-impacted elementary schools in different regions of the state to pair with colleges of education at three universities near their locations. The goal was to strengthen instructional strategies of practicing teachers and to improve the academic performance of students within the schools. The project also focused on providing teacher candidates at each university with opportunities to learn from mentor teacherson locationat each school and to use their experiences to inform changes to their respective programs. Grants administered through CSIS were managed by staff in the states superintendents office (Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) and the standards board for educators (State of Washington Professional Educator Standards Board), who jointly organized annual meetings of grantees. At each meeting, accomplishments by each site team were shared and discussed, and the teams reflected together on common and site-specific goals for the coming year. This introduction describes the processes followed by the site teams as they prepared and then implemented their school improvement goals. It also highlights several broad contributions of the CSIS effort and introduces the articles of the special issue.


Three universityschool partnerships were selected to participate in the CSIS initiative. These included a large state university with Blakeview Elementary (pseudonym), an elementary school in an urban setting; a regional state university with Riverview Elementary (pseudonym), an elementary school located in a small town in an agricultural area; and two private institutions of higher education and Kennedy Elementary (pseudonym), located on the eastern side of the state.

In the 20122013 school year, all three sites completed a comprehensive needs assessment with input from teachers, students, parents, and community organizations in the areas served by the elementary schools at each location. The universities (colleges of education) also went through a needs assessment process to determine how their teacher training models aligned with goals set by the state to better equip teacher candidates for work in poverty-impacted schools. Based on the results of these assessments, each team developed a five-year action plan that detailed a series of program initiatives and annual targets associated with each initiative. Approved plans were then implemented over the ensuing five years.

During the first year of the project, each team used its time to plan and review relevant data. It was also a time for partners at each site to become acquainted with the roles and expertise of other team members. Planning efforts were intentionally broad and open to various groups within each school (i.e., administrators, teachers, parents, community partners). In this early phase of partnership building, an emphasis was placed on understanding the strengths and challenges of each school, developing relationships to further the work, and prioritizing issues for early implementation of each sites strategic plan. Looking back from later years, all site teams agreed that early planning was critical to the success of their work because it helped to deepen relationships and strengthen systems of collaboration and communication.

In the course of planning and relationship building, each site team selected a specific set of strategies based on findings of their needs assessments and other visioning work at each site. At Kennedy Elementary (Traynor & Tully), the plan centered on a collaborative inquiry and saturation model. This model included the use of professional learning communities to foster collaboration and alignment of supports for students. Attention was given to placing interns and student teachers at the school to participate in programs during regular school hours and in an extended learning program after school. At Riverside (Carney et al.), the work was based in an inquiry-action teams in a community of practice model, which emphasized family engagement, professional learning communities, and enrichment. And at Blakeview (L. R. Herrenkohl et al.), the work was organized around the concept of full-service community schools. The full-service community school model recognizes that childrenparticularly those from low-income, immigrant, and nondominant backgroundsare best served when high-quality instruction is blended with significant academic supports, along with on-site health and wellness programs developed in collaboration with community partners. These different models and approaches are discussed in more detail in the site articles included in the special issue.

With these foundational frameworks, each team then began to implement a number of innovative practices, all with ultimate goal of improving students opportunities and outcomes and preparing teachers to sustain the work after the project ended. Based on the needs of their respective schools and the practices, the teams identified metrics for monitoring progress toward short-term and longer term outcomes. These metrics became the basis for assessing annual progress goals across program areas, which teams shared in yearly progress reports to the state.

In planning and implementing, a primary consideration at each site was how to apply research-based models of instruction and services that had shown success in other settings. This same consideration of research-based approaches was given to teacher preparation, which was pursued differently at each university. Although each program focused on different goals and processes, the primary objective in all cases was to provide teacher candidates with experiences and training that would equip them for work in poverty-impacted and underresourced schools.

While the work of each team had its own unique features, there were a number of overlapping strategies. For example, teams prioritized equitable teaching practices and family engagement. Emphasis was also placed on diversifying teacher candidates at the schools and to recruiting bilingual teachers to strengthen communication and deepen connections with families. Increasing communication, improving relationships between teachers and families, and soliciting feedback from families about the schools innovation plans served to build a culture of trust that served each site well. Families were engaged in other ways, too. For example, at one school, the site team initiated a parent mentor program. This program placed parents in classrooms alongside teachers to provide additional supports for students, while also offering parents a way to learn strategies they could use to support the academic work of students outside the classroom. Extended learning opportunities were also used to provide academic supports and enrichment activities to students. Building a sustainable infrastructure to coordinate wraparound academic and enrichment services was, at all sites, considered essential to student success.

There was also overlap in approaches to improving the preparation and retention of teacher candidates. In fact, one site initiated conditional hiring for five graduating teacher interns (Traynor & Tully). This allowed teacher candidates to remain at their respective schools after their training had been completed so that they could sustain the work in those settings. In addition, each site implemented new and innovative methods for improving teacher education at each university. These methods included professional learning communities, mentoring, and school-situated methods classes to encourage the development of robust pedagogical and instructional practices that support student learning and engagement. Specific details of each approach are provided in the jointly written article of the special issue focused on teacher education (Napolitan et al.).


In addition to the three site articles already mentioned, the special issue includes a comprehensive literature review titled The Challenges of Bridging the ResearchPractice Gap through InsiderOutsider Partnerships in Education (Phelps), a member of one site team. This review provides a detailed overview of schooluniversity partnerships, explaining the challenges and demands that schools and universities face when working together to merge research and practice. This article serves as an overarching literature review for the site articles, which detail accounts from each site team, highlighting challenges and successes throughout their joint efforts. A final article, Toward Teacher Preparation 3.0 (Napolitan et al.), explores the work that transpired over the course of the project around teacher education, including the ways in which work within the three site schools has helped to inform the curriculum at each university.

Our goal in preparing this special issue is to share the challenges and contributions of this innovative work and to illustrate how partnerships between universities and schools can begin to address some of the more vexing issues facing public education. The emphasis in this initiative on collaboration provides an important statement not just about the value of having partners unite to improve education systems, but also about the benefits that are realized when school communities cohere around a common set of priorities that are informed by research and by a deep understanding of the students and families they serve.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 12, 2019, p. 1-6
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22916, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 9:03:43 PM

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About the Author
  • Todd Herrenkohl
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    TODD I. HERRENKOHL is Professor and Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Children and Families at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. His scholarship focuses on the correlates and consequences of child maltreatment, risk and resiliency, and positive youth development. His funded studies and publications examine health-risk behaviors in children exposed to adversity, protective factors that buffer against early risk exposure, and prevention. An international scholar, Dr. Herrenkohl works with policy makers, school and child welfare professionals, and community partners to increase the visibility, application, and sustainability of evidence-based programs and practices in prevention, social emotional learning, and trauma-responsive care. He has published extensively on school-based models of prevention, public health, and youth empowerment. He has also written about strategies to transform systems to improve child outcomes and is particularly interested in applying a public health framework to the prevention of child maltreatment.
  • Leslie Herrenkohl
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    LESLIE RUPERT HERRENKOHL is Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Michigan.  She is a developmental psychologist and learning scientist who studies how people learn. Her scholarship uses a holistic, sociocultural approach to examining how people learn concepts, develop practices, and transform their participation in activities that matter to them. She considers how social and emotional dimensions intersect with intellectual and academic perspectives in learning sciences research.  As a designer of learning environments, Dr. Herrenkohl partners with practitioners to create equitable learning opportunities that are conceptually rich, personally meaningful, and culturally relevant and sustaining.  Her funded studies and publications focus on learning environments inside and outside of school settings, with a particular focus on science learning.  She has written for and presented to a wide variety of audiences including students, school professionals, youth development practitioners, researchers, and policymakers. 
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