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Creating Synergies for Change

by Joanne Carney, Marilyn Chu, Jennifer Green, William Nutting, Susan Donnelly, Andrea Clancy, Marsha Riddle Buly & David Carroll - 2019

Background/Context: The challenges documented in the literature on research–practice partnerships and similar school–university collaborations are outlined in the literature review in this issue. Yet only a collaboration among multiple educational and community organizations could create a synergy powerful enough to achieve the multifaceted goals of this project: (1) enhance instructional practices to better meet the needs of diverse learners; (2) better prepare teachers and teacher candidates to engage families in support of their children’s success; (3) develop a community of practice in which preservice teachers, teacher educators, in-service teachers, administrators, and other educational and human service professionals participate in ongoing, collaborative professional development; and (4) recruit and retain more teacher candidates from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study analyzes features and outcomes of a six-year school–university partnership funded by a large state grant. Project goals included developing innovative models for closing the achievement gap in an elementary school with a high percentage of English language learners and high-poverty measures. Using an inquiry-action model, the partners worked to better engage and support families as they enhanced teacher preparation and professional development.

Research Design: This case study uses mixed methods research to analyze how one research–practice partnership navigated the challenges inherent in such collaborative work.

Data Collection and Analysis: Data sources included student standardized testing data, teacher and intern surveys, semistructured interviews, a formative assessment of partnership processes, student and intern work samples, and observations in classrooms and teacher professional development activities.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This partnership avoided or overcame many of the challenges typical of school–university partnerships. Four factors appeared to be significant to the project’s success. First, all the key coordinators of the partnership, including the school principal and teacher education faculty, remained in place for five years. Similarly, there was very low turnover among teachers in the school, which meant that professional development was sustained. Second, the personal and professional characteristics of the people involved in the partnership were the right mix for the task. Shared meaning was fostered and school–university status hierarchies leveled as late-career university faculty spent large amounts of time in the school, participating in professional learning communities with teachers and teacher candidates. Third, trusting relationships were fostered within the school by the principal; there was a high level of trust from the outset. Fourth, both school and university leaders waited for indications of “readiness” among teachers and faculty, drew on expertise within the team, and demonstrated a commitment to organic evolution.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 12, 2019, p. 1-52
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22927, Date Accessed: 9/16/2021 6:26:57 PM

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About the Author
  • Joanne Carney
    Western Washington University
    E-mail Author
    JOANNE CARNEY is a professor emeritus at Western Washington University. Her research interests include teacher learning in professional communities of practice and educational technology. One recent publication is “Doing Inquiry in Second Grade Social Studies: An Integrated Unit That Uses Digital Storytelling to Make Family and Community Connections” in the Journal of Educational Controversy (Carney & Sadzewicz, in press).
  • Marilyn Chu
    Western Washington University
    E-mail Author
    MARILYN CHU is a professor of early childhood education at Western Washington University. She teaches about and studies educators partnering with young children, their families, and their communities. Recent work includes “Moving From Toolkits to Relationships: Family Engagement for Systems Change” in the Journal of Educational Controversy (Chu & Korsmo, 2018) and “What’s Missing in Most Early Childhood Degrees? Focusing More Deeply on Relationships and Learning with Infants, Toddlers and Their Families,” in the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education (Chu, 2016).
  • Jennifer Green
    Western Washington University
    E-mail Author
    JENNIFER GREEN is an associate professor and the director of the ELL/Bilingual Endorsement program at Western Washington University. Her research interests include morphology, systemic functional linguistics (SFL), and teacher preparation for ELL endorsements. Recent publications include: Wright-Maley, C., & Green, J. (2018). Bitter challenge; Swede success: Simulating language learning experiences in social studies classrooms. In L. C. de Oliveira & K. M. Obenshain (Eds.), Teaching History and Social Studies to English Language Learners: Preparing Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers. Palgrave MacMillan; and Green, J. D. (April, 2015). Language detectives: Teaching and learning about suffixes. The Reading Teacher, 68(7), 539–547.
  • William Nutting
    Mount Vernon School District
    E-mail Author
    WILLIAM NUTTING is the assistant superintendent of the Mount Vernon School District in Washington State. Past positions include elementary school principal, staff development director, and elementary school teacher. Research interests include school- and district-level leadership, models of effective professional learning, and school/university partnerships.
  • Susan Donnelly
    Western Washington University
    E-mail Author
    SUSAN DONNELLY is a retired educator. Throughout her career of more than 45 years, she worked in early childhood settings, school administration, and teacher education. Most recently, she was the co-coordinator of the grant project described in this article.
  • Andrea Clancy
    Sedro-Woolley School District
    E-mail Author
    ANDREA CLANCY is currently assistant principal at Sedro-Woolley High School. Formerly, she was an elementary classroom teacher and the co-coordinator of the grant project described in this article.
  • Marsha Buly
    Western Washington University
    E-mail Author
    MARSHA RIDDLE BULY is a professor of literacy and bilingual education at Western Washington University. Marsha is the teacher education director of the Future Bilingual Teacher Fellow alternative route to BA and certification program for bilingual paraeducators, Highline Schools and Skagit Valley. She is also codirector of the master’s in education program, Language and Literacy focus. Marsha’s scholarly work focuses on culturally and linguistically diverse students and the people who teach them. In addition to journal articles, Marsha is author of NCTE’s English Language Learners in the Literacy Workshop (2011).
  • David Carroll
    Western Washington University
    E-mail Author
    DAVID CARROLL is a professor emeritus at Western Washington University. While at Western, he taught elementary candidates as they were engaged in their student teaching internships, working in collaboration with their mentor teachers and school leaders. David’s research interests at WWU have focused on studying effective mentoring practices for preservice teachers and on investigating the development of dispositions for ambitious teaching to serve “everybody’s children.” The latter interest is captured in the following article: Carroll, D. (2012). Examining the development of dispositions for ambitious teaching: One teacher candidate’s journey. New Educator, 8(1), 38–64.
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