WMU News

WMU joins KPS to improve teaching, learning

Feb. 9, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University is joining forces with Kalamazoo Public Schools in a broad-based effort to find new and innovative ways to improve education district wide.

The formal partnership, announced jointly by school district and University officials and administrators at a Feb. 9 news conference, is being called CITE -- the Collaborative for Innovation and Teaching Excellence. By combining University and school district resources under one umbrella, administrators and educators hope to improve teaching and learning in area schools and in WMU's professional education programs.

"Since our beginning as a teacher's college, public education and the role it plays in building a better society has been a cornerstone of our institution," says WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "So it is with great pleasure that our University expands on the partnerships we have already created with our public schools and in so doing, helps teachers become the very best educators they can be while helping all students become better learners."

Nationally, the only substantial progress in improving education from pre-school through high school and in improving professional education has developed from a commitment to systemic, jointly funded school-university collaboration, organizers say. CITE will do just that.

The collaborative has five basic goals:

Provide knowledge-based professional development for KPS teachers and administrators and WMU faculty.

Improve teaching and learning in KPS classrooms and in WMU's professional education programs.

Coordinate, integrate, monitor and evaluate collaborative ventures between WMU and KPS.

Generate and focus resources targeted for at-risk students.

Conduct classroom relevant research designed to improve teaching and learning for all children.

"There is a wealth of information and research that we can tap into," says Janice M. Brown, KPS superintendent. "WMU faculty can bring that to us. We also believe our schoolteachers have much to offer teacher educators. When teachers learn, students achieve. There's no better way to meet the future demands of the classroom than to make sure we, as staff, are lifelong learners."

The collaborative will be governed by a board made up of representatives from across the community. Organizers say their input will be vital to the initiative's success.

WMU's initial contributions to the collaborative will be three tenure-track positions, doctoral-level research assistants, and appropriate University-based administrative support. The three professors will be brought to WMU for the express purpose of serving the collaborative, ensuring that they contribute directly and consistently to improving education from pre-school through 12th grade.

KPS plans to contribute a physical facility to house the collaborative, most likely a renovated school, plus a full-time coordinator of professional development, secretarial support staff, technology and KPS "teachers in residence."

"The partnership will let WMU faculty researchers and KPS teachers apply theory and test the latest innovations in learning," says Dr. David England, dean of the WMU College of Education. "Both groups will be seeking new ways to improve the education of future teachers.

"WMU has much to gain," England continues. "School-university partnerships lead to reciprocal staff development, benefiting both teachers and teacher educators. Ultimately, future teachers and school students are the beneficiaries."

Another benefit of the cooperative is that the University and school district will be much better poised to solicit grant funding for new, innovative education initiatives, England says. Foundations and government agencies often want a mechanism already in place to carry out research projects before approving grants to fund them.

"This collaborative will become a springboard for obtaining grant monies to fund new education initiatives that will have far-reaching effects," England says. "We will be able to do much more with this collaborative already in place than we could do without it."

The board of directors that governs CITE's efforts will report to WMU's president and the KPS Board of Education president. The board will be composed of the KPS superintendent, WMU College of Education dean, Kalamazoo Education Association president, two WMU faculty, the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency superintendent, UAW Administrative Group No. 2150 president, a representative of the business community, president of the Kalamazoo Foundation and president of the Kalamazoo County Chamber of Commerce.

CITE will initially serve to coordinate and evaluate numerous ongoing school and university projects. New projects the joint venture will undertake are yet to be determined, England says. As one possibility, he points to the growing belief that American public high schools are obsolete.

"We could begin to study how we want to reinvent a high school from the ground up," England says. "The collaborative becomes the means by which we can redesign contexts for teaching and learning."

Brown says that the collaborative will help staff at each school in the district develop a clear vision for what they would like their school to become.

"We're extremely excited about this," Brown says. "We see this initiative as being a very important contributor to our constant effort to educate more children in better ways. Through collaboration and cooperation, we can continue that growth in very consistent and meaningful ways. This will be one of the most dramatic and comprehensive efforts we have undertaken that will benefit both Kalamazoo Public Schools and Western Michigan University."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400