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Partnering for Student Success: A 2+2 Teacher Education Program

September 2011, Volume 14, Number 9

by Erin Landers and Denise Derrick

Greenville College, a four-year institution in southwestern Illinois, and three Illinois community colleges, Kaskaskia College (KC), Lewis and Clark Community College (LCCC), and Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC), share a mission and vision to provide access to high-quality education to a largely rural population. This shared mission and a history of successful partnership programs have allowed for the successful implementation of the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP), a unique 2+2 agreement that allows students to complete their entire bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at the community college location.

Rationale

Looking for a feasible opportunity for students seeking education degrees leading to teacher licensure, LCCC approached Greenville College with the idea of creating a 2+2 agreement in which all the coursework would be offered on the LCCC campus. This request originated from a desire by both the Greenville College and community college leadership to expand and diversify course offerings while making coursework accessible to those challenged geographically or by restrictive work schedules. A combination of several environmental factors led to the consideration of the UTEP degree. This included a needs analysis that revealed a strong interest in a teacher preparation program; Greenville College’s long-standing tradition of teacher education preparation; a looming teacher shortage in Illinois K-12 school districts; and anecdotal information indicating that teachers tend to live, train, and work within the same region. The situation seemed to support a program that would develop high-quality K-12 teachers and serve students who were not able to attend a traditional bachelor’s degree program. The target population included paraprofessionals who were already working in schools and adult learners seeking a second career in education who could not attend courses during the day.

Development

The development of the UTEP program required multiple phases. The first phase, developing the business plan, included two key features: analysis of the needs assessment data and a detailed financial review. The needs assessment included research from the major stakeholders indicating which program offerings would best meet their needs. The second element of the business plan demonstrated the program would not be a drain on either institution’s financial or instructional budget. The proposed budget included projected enrollment, cost structures including estimated fixed and variable program expenses, salaries for new support staff, and identification of additional community colleges with which to partner.

The business plan and required regulatory paperwork were then presented to the institutional leadership and regulatory agencies for approval. Program approval was granted by organizational leaders and the regulatory agencies, allowing the institution to build the major program features. The four year institution then collaborated with two additional community colleges with which the organization shared a long history of partnerships to expand the UTEP program. KC and GC began their partnership quickly after the initial programming was approved by regulatory agencies, and SWIC and GC recently entered into a UTEP partnership.

The organizational history shared by the institutions created a culture in which a unique, student-centered partnership developed. The strong, collegial, lengthy, and respectful relationship between the four- and two-year institutions allowed for the institutions to successfully negotiate the many challenges to program development. The challenges to program development included multiple issues: content delivery; advertising and recruiting model; advisement; faculty identification, development, and support; managing continually changing accreditation requirements; student services; and curriculum alignment.

The two- and four-year schools worked collaboratively to resolve these program challenges. Specifically, the GC School of Education leadership and the community college lead education faculty revised the education course curriculum to ensure the syllabi at all the institutions met the same objectives and aligned to the same Illinois Professional Teaching Standards. The GC School of Education also worked with the community college instructional leaders to identify faculty who were best suited to teach education courses at the lower and upper division level. Additionally, the GC School of Education articulated accreditation requirements and worked with the community college instructional leadership to ensure these requirements were fulfilled on the community college side of the partnership.

The GC School of Education and the community college leadership also worked to develop the necessary student services. This required training the community college advisors on the unique features of the UTEP program, recruiting students to the program through the avenues provided by the community college, establishing ways for student records to transfer easily between institutions, and establishing agreements between institutions’ financial aid offices that met regulatory requirements.

This cooperative effort resulted in a strong, student-centered program that effectively delivered a four-year degree to students who might not otherwise be able to earn a teaching degree.

Some of the particular features of the program include the following:

  • Students take the first 74 credits at the community college and the last 52 through the four-year institution.
  • Students must complete Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree as admission requirement to four-year school.
  • All courses are taught at the community college location.
  • Admission to the four-year institution is streamlined.
  • Students who follow advisement sheets and take a credit load of at least 15 credits can graduate in 7.5 semesters, taking the last three semesters through the four-year institution.
  • Advisement on degree and certification requirements from both institutions occurs while the student is enrolled in the community college.
  • Annual reviews of the program by both institutions are held to identify necessary changes to the program based on student needs or regulatory agency demands.
  • Shared program governance allows each institution to have representatives serve on the other’s advisory boards.
  • Student academic records are shared between institutions without charge to the student.
  • Education courses are articulated to the same learning standards and objectives at each institution.
  • Advisement sheets showing required courses from both institutions in a single document are provided to students enrolled in the community college.
  • Four-year institutions meet with students during education courses at the community college level to discuss the program.
  • The two-year institution provides University Alliance office space for four-year staff advisor meetings.

Implementation

The first step in program implementation began with the community college. Students were recruited and advised on courses necessary for their associate’s degree as well as courses necessary for entrance and graduation from the four-year institution. The community college requirements included completion of an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree. While students were enrolled in the two-year institution, the four-year institution began its advisement process for admission. After students fulfilled the two-year school program requirements, they were admitted to the four-year institution. The students then completed the four-year program requirements, allowing them to earn their bachelor’s degree and seek teacher licensure from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Lessons Learned

The UTEP program has been a successful one for the participating students and institutions. As the program has grown and matured, those working in the program have learned many lessons.

  • To ensure curricular success, each institution’s leadership must select key faculty who support the program and are willing to work with the partner institution’s faculty to align courses at both institutions to the same learning objectives, standards, and outcomes.
  • Partners must meet at least once a year to discuss program successes and concerns.
  • Students must receive accurate information on financial aid and billing processes in a very intentional and consistent manner.
  • Staff providing services to students at both institutions must be aware of the unique program requirements to provide appropriate guidance regarding aspects such as financial aid.
  • Advisement must be consistent, accurate, specific, and available from both institutions even while students are enrolled in the community college.
  • Data must be collected and analyzed on both the program and students to inform decisions made about program changes and improvements. This documentation will also be required for accreditation processes.
  • Focus on students. Unnecessary barriers to student learning and success must be removed or avoided. Do not add entrance or graduation requirements unless data supports the changes, or the requirements are required by regulatory agencies.
  • Train all administrative staff and faculty on the uniqueness of programming. Help all who work with students understand the specific program requirements and real benefit the program has to students.

A Winning Opportunity

This unique partnership provides a rare win-win-win opportunity benefitting the students, the two-year school, and the four-year school. The key to this program’s success is the willingness of both the two- and four-year institution to work as true partners. This partnership requires both organizations’ continued commitment to resolve program issues and celebrate successes together. The organizations’ shared mission of providing high-quality education to those who cannot access it through traditional modes provides a framework for the partnership, and this allows the organizations to more easily agree on program policies and administration. The organizations also share a high level of trust, which allows both institutions to listen thoughtfully and receive and provide input on program challenges effectively. Without a shared mission and true partnership, the program would struggle to provide the seamless, transparent programming to students, and the program would not be successful. The continued developing and nurturing of this distinctive partnership allows students to earn a degree they might not otherwise be able to achieve, while preparing them to serve future students in their communities.

Erin Landers is Academic Advisor for Graduate and Teacher Education Partnerships in the School of Education at Greenville College, and Denise Derrick is Dean of Enrollment Management at Kaskaskia College, Illinois.

 

Opinions expressed in Learning Abstracts are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.

Posted by The League for Innovation in the Community College on 09/30/2011 at 6:37 PM | Categories: Learning Abstracts -