Dean and Alumna Participate in Washington DC Roundtable Discussion
Above Image: 2018 College of Education Student Teacher of the Year Payton Bryant, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, College of Education Dean Paula Summers Calderon
Southeastern Louisiana University College of Education Dean Paula Summers Calderon was recently invited to Washington DC by US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to participate in a roundtable discussion about preparing classroom teachers. Southeastern is one of only seven school-university partners in the nation and the only one in Louisiana originally selected for the education coalition University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Education Preparation (US PREP).
“US PREP is a well-connected program advocating for rigorous university-based teacher education programs. In addition to advocating, US PREP provides clinical coaches who come to the university to train our methods instructors, host mentor teachers, and university site coordinators in best practices in teacher education,” Calderon explained. “As a new dean, I made the decision to continue the US PREP partnership, and the College of Education is delighted to be an inaugural and continuing member of the US PREP Coalition.”
Attending the meeting with Calderon was Southeastern alumna and 2018 College of Education Student Teacher of the Year Payton Bryant. Bryant currently teaches at Luling Elementary in St. Charles Parish.
“When Dr. Calderon asked me to attend the roundtable discussion in Washington DC to speak to Secretary DeVos, I was beyond excited for a chance to tell my story of what high quality teacher preparation can do,” Bryant said. “My ultimate goal was to implore Secretary DeVos to make my experience commonplace for new teachers in order to prepare them adequately and retain them for years to come.”
During the discussion, Bryant added, the participants explained their teacher education programs and the far-reaching impact of those programs on the students.
“I mainly discussed how pre-service teachers need a chance to fail with a mentor teacher there to guide them, because we do not have this chance when we begin in our own classroom,” Bryant explained. “I was fortunate to have a mentor teacher who held me to the highest of standards, gave me feedback each day, and never settled for anything less than my best. She never told me what to do but questioned me and made me figure out things for myself. This opportunity does not exist now that I am inside of my own classroom, which is why every single teacher candidate needs it.”
During the meeting at the Department of Education, US PREP highlighted how it is addressing challenges that contribute to a national shortage of educators. Coalition deans and program graduates shared innovative features of the initiative and emphasized the importance of high-quality training for pre-service teachers.
“In some states, the standards are low for preparation programs, making it easy to become a teacher through low-quality programs,” said US PREP Executive Director Sarah Beal. “These teachers often teach in our highest need areas, and when they are not well-prepared, it can result in perpetuating inequities in our school systems as well as de-professionalizing the teaching profession overall.”
“Many policymakers are critical of colleges of education and have given up on us,” Beal added. “We were pleased to showcase the hard work that has been done by the partner universities in US PREP, and that it is possible to make innovative improvements and thoroughly prepare candidates to be ready to teach on day one. We are very grateful to Secretary DeVos and her staff for taking the time to listen.”
Among the features of US PREP are close partnerships between universities and schools, embedded university faculty in school districts, and intensive clinical experiences featuring a yearlong teaching experience and robust performance assessments. US PREP also supports their member providers with developing high-quality teacher preparation pathways that are affordable and accessible to prospective teachers.
US PREP is adding eight more partners, including in New York City and California. In all, the US PREP coalition will prepare over 5,000 new teachers each year.