URI initiative producing strong results for statewide collaborative effort

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Teacher reform program has educators better prepared to enter classroom

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 11, 2008 – The statewide pass rate for teacher licensure examinations has significantly increased, thanks in part to the success of a University of Rhode Island initiative designed to reform teacher education in the state.

The Rhode Island Teacher Education Renewal (RITER) project began in September of 2004, funded by a five-year, $7.5 million Teacher Quality Enhancement Partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Entering its fifth year, the project has experienced significant success. URI education professors David Byrd and Peter Adamy are the principal co-investigators for the project.

The first major objective was to ensure articulation between national content standards, the content knowledge of teacher education candidates and their ability to apply this knowledge. Test scores for teachers in the program have steadily improved in this area. In the 2004-05 academic year, the statewide pass rate was 91 percent for all higher education institutes offering teacher education programs leading to licensure. By 2006-07, the pass rate had risen to 98 percent.

“In the area of content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, there has been an increase in test scores over the last five years,” said Byrd, URI’s director of the School of Education. “Teacher education candidates are showing increased levels of knowledge. This should provide assurance to parents that their daughters and sons have teachers who are confident in the subjects they teach and the strategies necessary to help students learn.”

Other objectives for the project are to improve the ability of teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom; help teachers become more skilled in addressing issues of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, language and special needs; mentor beginning teachers working in high-need districts; and develop and implement a non-traditional certification program in high-needs areas such as chemistry, math and special education.

The project is a partnership composed of all eight approved teacher preparation programs in the state: URI, Rhode Island College, Brown University, Johnson and Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University and Salve Regina University. The arts and science faculties at these institutions, three high-need school districts (Central Falls, Newport and Pawtucket), and the two state education agencies (Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Rhode Island Office of Higher Education) are also partners in the project.

Through working with districts in Central Falls, Pawtucket and Newport, education students are gaining important exposure to high-need areas.

“The diversity initiative has really taken off,” Adamy said. “Dr. Peni Callahan, faculty member at Providence College, and colleagues across the state have been actively engaged in ongoing training, kindergarten through 12th grade, for both public school and college/university faculty. We are able to analyze the cultural competence of the teachers who are working with students from various cultures.”

Though it is a five-year grant, efficient use of funds has enabled finances to be rolled into a sixth year for the project. The partners are working on ways to continue the project when the initial grant runs out.

“The progress that has been made through the program has surpassed our expectations,” said Adamy, associate professor of education. “We have had unprecedented levels of participation in the program throughout the state, including the three high-need districts in the state. This has provided us with the motivation to collaborate as a group on a regular basis.”