It started back in the fall of 2010 with an idea about building a stronger partnership through co-teaching. The partnership has since improved the outcomes for elementary school children, as well as for the Bandelier Elementary School community.
The program involves teacher candidates in the University of New Mexico’s College of Education elementary teacher education program participating in student teaching experiences that implement several research-based practices, including extensive collaboration, co-teaching and selective practicum placement at Bandelier Elementary. The program, now in its third year, has shown great promise with elementary student achievement gains greater than the district average and high job placement rates for UNM graduates upon completion.
“Co-teaching has been used in special education classrooms for a long time, and only fairly recently within teacher preparation programs,” said Chair and Associate Professor Cheryl Torrez, UNM Department of Teacher Education. “We use a clinical model of co-teaching with this collaboration, which is very different from the traditional model of student teaching experiences.”
The co-teaching model of clinical preparation uses seven strategies, and at times, combined with other strategies to best meet the needs of the elementary students in the classroom. Strategies include: one teach, one observe; one teach, one assist; station teaching; parallel teaching; supplemental teaching; alternative or differentiated teaching; and team teaching.
“We use co-planning and co-teaching techniques with our teaching candidates from the get go,” Torrez said. “UNM teacher candidates have three robust semesters of co-teaching so they have much more time to learn how to plan and implement effective instruction. These experiences are transformational for our teacher candidates.”
The CoE placed its first cohort of 12 teacher candidates at Bandelier in spring 2011. Each spring a new cohort is introduced. The third cohort in the program, which included 15 teaching candidates, was introduced last spring. All graduates from the first two cohorts got teaching jobs upon graduation. The program has been so successful that two additional elementary schools, Sandia Base and Sierra Vista, will be added this fall and will follow the same pattern of co-teaching.
“We believe that this collaboration with the Albuquerque Public School district will continue to be of great benefit to our UNM teacher candidates, to the classroom teachers and school communities, and most importantly to the elementary students. We anticipate expanding the co-teaching model of student teaching into our secondary education program as well; with a high-school coming onboard in the near future.”
UNM’s teaching candidates become an integral part of the school community while they are co-teaching in the program. They attend meetings, engage in professional development activities alongside their mentoring teachers, and work outside the classroom at events and fundraisers so when they leave the school they have a better understanding of what the job of a teacher involves.
“Since 2011 when we introduced our first cohort, student achievement, in nearly every co-teaching classroom, at Bandelier has increased,” Torrez said. “Teacher candidates are better prepared to be outstanding educators. There’s less shock to beginning teachers who have participated in this program when they go out and teach on their own. They are better prepared, have a stronger background as novice teachers, and know what it means to plan and teach in a normal work day. Cooperating teachers in the program see it as incredibly beneficial to have two adults in the classroom rather than one. They get to mentor and work closely with each teacher candidate.”
UNM also uses an embedded faculty member within the program who works closely in and with the schools. The goal of the UNM CoE is eventually to have the co-teaching collaborative be a model for teacher education in New Mexico.
The Legislative Finance Committee visited Bandelier last fall and said it’s a program that shows much promise and should be replicated across the state. “Test scores in co-teaching classrooms increased in nearly every class,” Torrez said. “The Legislative Finance Committee reported that the fifth grade test scores, in co-teaching classrooms at Bandelier, were better than those students without co-teachers and far exceeded achievement scores of fifth grades across New Mexico. This collaborative model is purposefully organized to meet the needs of the schools, students and our teacher candidates.”
According to an LFC survey of more than 200 principals, 80 percent strongly agreed that student teaching is a critical element of teacher preparation, while 86 percent strongly agreed that strategies for effective classroom management, which are often practiced through student-teaching, are critical.
“It’s really a great collaboration,” Torrez said. “We want each collaboration to be unique to each school, and we want to be responsive to the needs of schools as well as to the program requirements for our teacher candidates. Everyone gains in this collaboration."