Austin Peay State University (APSU)
Clarksville, TN – For the last several years, Austin Peay State University (APSU) and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) have worked together almost on autopilot.
The APSU Eriksson College of Education sent juniors and seniors to practice teaching at local schools, and the district looked for classrooms to place these would-be teachers.
But, as with many long-term relationships, the two organizations seemed to simply be going through the motions without engaging in deep, meaningful conversations.
“We were on the same team, but we didn’t know it,” Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of the APSU Eriksson College of Education, said.
In 2017, shortly after Chandler arrived at Austin Peay, he created a new position within the college, naming Dr. Lisa Barron, associate professor of education, as the director of Teacher Education and Partnerships. At the same time, just a few miles away, the school system named Dr. Sean Impeartrice as its new chief academic officer. With fresh eyes in key leadership posts, the two organizations quickly went to work rebuilding their staid relationship.
“The timing was good,” Impeartrice said. “We’re meeting often and probably spend more time in dialog and strategic planning around our goals than we ever have in the past.”
Last month, Education First, a national public education consulting firm, released “Partnering on Prep: A Toolkit for Building Strong District-Teacher Preparation Program Partnerships,” and the publication used the APSU-CMCSS collaboration as an example of how to build strong partnerships. The article talks about the two organizations having “honest conversations,” and through those conversations, they realized they both have the same goals.
“We were after the same things, our goals were the same,” Barron said. “We want to produce quality teacher candidates, and they want to hire quality teacher candidates. They want to retain them in the school district after they’re hired. So, the stronger we can make our program and the easier it is for our candidates to transition to Clarksville-Montgomery County as teachers of record, it makes sense for everybody.”
At Austin Peay State University, professors are now using the same terms in their classrooms that teacher candidates will hear once they begin working in the school district. For example, education majors are learning about “explicit direct instruction” instead of “lesson planning.”
“If we can imbed that language into our course, that will make their transition into Clarksville easier,” Barron said.
If some of this sounds like common sense, that’s exactly what Chandler, the college’s dean, thought. But sometimes, as with many long-term relations, you have to re-engage with your partner.
“We needed to listen more and talk less,” Chandler said. “We’re lucky that we have a partner that is as successful as CMCSS. A lot of partnerships between universities and school districts are reactive. A lot are framed around, ‘We need a place to put a student teacher.’ It can’t just be that. We’ve been more proactive and bigger picture and strategic and intentional.”
For information on Austin Peay’s Eriksson College of Education, visit www.apsu.edu/education