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What is co-teaching?
The original definition of co-teaching offered by Cook & Friend (1995) defined it as “two or more professionals delivering substantive instruction to a diverse or blended group of students in a single physical space” (p. 2).
*Source: Cook, L. & Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practice. Focus on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 1-16.

The current definition of co-teaching, (Chapman & Hart Hyatt, 2011) states that “co-teaching is an effective, evidence-based instructional strategy in which two or more caring professionals share responsibility for a group of students and work collaboratively to add instructional value to enhance their efforts” (p. 8).
*Source: Chapman, C. & Hart Hyatt, C. (2011). Critical conversations in co-teaching: A problem-solving approach. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Minnesota State University, Mankato utilizes the current definition of co-teaching directly above, where the two professionals are a Cooperating Teacher + an MSU Teacher Candidate.

Why co-teaching?
Preliminary research on the co-teaching model shows an increase in student learning. Dual instruction occurs roughly 70% of the time. Students receive the benefit of a teacher and a teacher candidate providing instruction and support. This increases opportunities for individual and small group attention by reducing the size of the instructional group. This also increases opportunities to differentiate instruction.

Co-teaching increases teacher professional development opportunities by offering quality mentoring for teacher candidates from an experienced teacher and enhances the teacher candidate and cooperating teachers’ reflection on teaching and results.

Who are the Teacher Candidates participating in NExT in Bloomington?
BPS Teacher Candidates are students enrolled at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU) in the teacher preparation program. They serve as a co-teacher in their final semester before being recommended for licensure in a Bloomington classroom under the supervision of a cooperating teacher. During their co-teaching experience, candidates develop their repertoire of instructional strategies and deepen their understanding of the teaching profession under the guidance of a master teacher.

What do Cooperating Teachers do?
A cooperating teacher serves as a host to a teacher candidate and provides him or her with mentoring, guidance, and instructional modeling to develop their teaching skills. The cooperating teacher participates in specialized professional development within the co-teaching model offered by MSU each semester. This helps to create a culture of collaboration between the school site and the University to improve pre-service training.

Who are the pilot sites?
Indian Mounds Elementary, Hubert Olson Middle, and Thomas Jefferson High Schools have served as pilot sites for the project since 2009. In 2012, teachers in other schools in the district may participate in hosting a teacher candidate.

Who else is involved in implementing co-teaching in Bloomington Public Schools?
School Principals
  • Serve as a liaison between the site and the University
  • Encourage and support cooperating teachers in their role as mentor and guide to the teacher candidate
  • Provide teacher candidates with analytic feedback on their performance
  • Fosters a culture of collaboration between the school site and the University to improve pre-service training
School District
  • Provides the University with access to classrooms and high quality teachers who serve as mentors to teacher candidates
  • A local steering committee serves as liaison to the University and helps set direction for the project. The Steering Committee consists of teachers, administrators, and district office leadership.
  • Assists with other NExT project goals, including:
    • Teacher recruitment
    • Teaching induction and mentoring
  • Assessment and project evaluation (project contracts services from the Value-Added Research Center [VARC] at the University of Wisconsin, Madison)
  • Helps to inform University curriculum design
University Partners
  • Liaison with the Bush Foundation for the NExT project
    • Serves on district steering committee in collaboration with district representatives
  • Leads the professional dialogue surrounding pre-service education
  • Serves as an on-site contact for the cooperating teacher and the teacher candidate
Bush Foundation
  • Catalyst for reforming teacher education programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota
  • Provides funding for the NExT project
  • Provides technical support and feedback for project participants, including national expert review and comment
  • Responsible for the large, multi-state marketing campaign for teacher recruitment and retention
  • Interacts with state and national policy makers to reform teacher education
  • Preliminary research on the co-teaching model shows an increase in student learning
How will the results of the NExT campaign be measured?
Minnesota State Mankato has partnered with the Value-Added Research Center (VARC), contracted by the Bush Foundation, in the mission to transform teacher preparation. VARC, housed on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, is currently engaging in discussions with Minnesota State Mankato Professional Development School (PDS) partners, including the Bloomington Public Schools, and College of Education faculty around value-added methods and preliminary analyses of Minnesota student achievement data.

The research method for interpreting the amount of value added to a classroom from student data is fairly new. VARC director, Dr. Rob Meyer, founded the Center in 2004 to develop this methodology and employ it in states and districts. Implementation efforts have since expanded to include districts in eleven states and, recently, the thirteen Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) involved in the NExT project.

The methodology itself takes measuring student learning data to another level. Instead of measuring student attainment (test scores) or growth over time in attainment (test scores differences over time), value-added measures account for the teacher and/or school’s contributions to a student’s learning. This contribution can be determined when researchers account for contextual factors teachers and administrators cannot control. A VARC researcher explained the idea through the analogy of an oak tree’s growth under the care of different gardeners. The gardener’s performance cannot be accurately assessed without accounting for environmental conditions outside his influence such as rainfall, temperature, and soil richness. In comparison, these outside influences may correspond to factors such as a student’s socioeconomic, disability, or English Language Learner status.

To accomplish their research goals, VARC must access various types of data and provide ongoing analytical and technical support to partners. Data collected must be comprehensive to identify the effects any one teacher has in their school building and how that teacher and/or district compares to other districts. VARC’s roles in the NExT partnership include working with individual data systems and their reporting procedures to allow for longitudinal analysis. They also create professional development plans to train districts and states how to use the method and compare its results.

VARC travelled to all NExT project sites in early spring 2011 once they produced the initial round of grade-level value-added data for its partners. District superintendents and representatives received grade-level reports and discussed their uses and significance. NExT Assessment Coordinator, Dr. Daria Paul-Dona, presented the early results of a concurrent in-house study that gathered graduates’ perceptions of Minnesota State Mankato’s teacher preparation program. This body of evidence should inform the use of best practices in preparing Minnesota State Mankato teachers as well as in the schools our graduates inhabit.

VARC will now advance the work they started within the NExT partnership. By summer 2011 they plan to begin analyzing classroom-level student and teacher data while beginning value-added analyses with alternative assessments. NExT project leaders and PDS partners may see teacher-level reports during the 2011-12 academic year while VARC continues developing the value-added models for the pilot sites.
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