Wichita State University is an urban serving, research university with enrollment of almost 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students. In the College of Education, three departments are participating in the 21st Century Educators partnership—Counseling, Educational and School Psychology; Curriculum and Instruction; and Educational Leadership.
The WSU College of Education’s comprehensive plan, 21st Century Educators, is a multi-faceted effort to meet the educational demands of the Wichita public schools in the 21st century. It is designed to recruit and train skilled education leaders for the urban school environment, re-invigorate its long-standing collaboration with the Wichita school district in teacher preparation, cultivate diversity among teachers to reflect the changing demographics of the community, and develop support programs for K-12 to assist the Wichita school district in meeting the social and emotional needs of students.
To meet these goals, WSU College of Education is partnering with the Wichita public schools in the development of three new programs: the Urban Principal Academy, Urban Teacher Preparation Program and Play Therapy Program, along with the continuation and expansion of a successful existing program, Grow Your Own Teacher.
Urban Principal Academy: Recruiting and training education leaders
Experiencing a shortage of prospective principals who were adequately prepared for the complexities of urban school leadership, USD 259, the 19th largest public school district in the nation, partnered with Wichita State University to develop a new preparation program designed specifically for future urban principals.
Starting in the summer of 2007, a two-year program leading to a master’s degree and recommendation for building licensure was launched as a result of collaboration of USD 259 administrators and WSU Department of Educational Leadership faculty. The curriculum was developed by school administrators and WSU faculty in a series of workshops led by a consultant familiar with partnership programs. The result is an academically challenging course of study designed for Wichita schools. It is site-based, developed around practicum and case study, and taught by adjunct faculty who are USD 259 administrators selected and mentored by the WSU faculty. Currently, the first cohort of 16 students is moving through the second year of the program. To date student and instructor evaluations have been highly positive.
Urban Teacher Preparation Program: Reinvigorating the WSU College of Education partnership with USD 259
The Urban Teacher Preparation Program (UTPP) is supported in part by a grant from the Kansas Board of Regents. Beginning in the fall of 2008, this program will provide the opportunity for up to 20 elementary candidates to complete their four final semesters in an education program at Wichita State University and commit to teaching for four years in the urban setting of Wichita’s USD 259, a district of almost 50,000 students. Those selected for this program will receive financial support for WSU tuition from USD 259 in the form of a forgivable loan. Wichita State University and Wichita public schools will share teaching within the program that will include multiple opportunities for hands-on, school-based experiences. The curriculum will have an urban focus and graduates will be recommended for licensure as teachers of English as a Second Language as well as elementary licensure. The program meets standards of the Kansas State Board of Education. Its ultimate evaluation will be the number of scholarship recipients who pursue a long-term teaching career in an urban school.
Grow Your Own Teacher: The cultivation of diversity to better reflect changing student demographics
During the past 20 years, the population of the Wichita Public Schools has experienced several significant demographic changes. The main goal of the GYOT Program, funded by USD 259 four-year scholarships, is to increase the diversity of the Wichita Public Schools teaching staff. The GYOT Program selects USD 259 graduating seniors who will be the first in their family to receive a university degree or identify themselves as part of a group that is under-represented in higher education with the expectation that as university graduates the recipients will return to teach in the district.
To date, 133 participants have completed their college education, 96 individuals are currently employed as teachers in the Wichita Public Schools. In the 2007-08 academic year, 33 students, ranging in status from freshmen to seniors, participated in the program. Those students who choose to attend WSU receive additional scholarships for books and supplies and in 2007 WSU began to provide special mentoring from college of education academic advisors for the scholarship recipients.
TOP Play Therapy: Support program to meet social and emotional needs of students
The Opportunity Project (TOP) is a charitable organization devoted to early education for children living in poverty. National studies have proven that high quality, early educational day care and preschool services produce dramatic improvements in life outcomes for economically at-risk children. Studies show they are also more likely to graduate high school, attend college and live happier, more productive adult lives. TOP graduates are ready for kindergarten.
Wichita State University College of Education’s Counseling, Educational and School Psychology Department has begun a pilot collaboration project (begun in August, 2007) between the two TOP preschools in the Wichita metropolitan area and a graduate-level play therapy graduate certificate program at WSU. This unique community-university partnership which also serves Title II students through the Wichita Public Schools provides services to children in low income families and offers high quality training experiences for mental health professionals to develop skills to work with preschool-age children. The project hopes the future will include training of parents and teachers in basic play therapy techniques that can be used by non-counselors to enhance the emotional and social development of children. Consultation with parents and preschool teachers is an important element of the project.
The four separate programs that make up the 21st Century Educators initiative developed separately over the past two years from requests made to the College of Education from the Wichita Public Schools and TOP organization.
Together the programs serve students along a continuum that stretches from pre-K children’s development through play, to individuals seeking bachelor’s degrees and recommendation for initial teaching licensure, to educators interested in leading urban schools as principals.
Three of the programs, taken together, address recruitment, preparation and continuing professional development of high quality teachers and leaders. Program development includes expanding GYOT in existence for 20 years, establishing two new programs over the past two years, and launching a pilot program to support the social and psychological needs of pre-kindergarten children who attend early-childhood learning centers that participate in the partner school population.
The 21st Century Educators is an innovative initiative and one that is grounded in specific needs voiced from the university’s urban school district partner and an associated non-profit organization. This academic and professional initiative combines both proven (GYOT) and new programs in a strand of human capital development that extends from pre-kindergarten through graduate level study.