Middle Tennessee State University’s in-the-field training offered through its undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program has been ranked among the nation’s best by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
MTSU’s clinical practice program stands out as among only 33 traditional elementary programs out of more than the 1,100 evaluated to earn an “A” grade in the NCTQ’s 2020 Teacher Prep Review.
Bobbi Lussier, executive director of professional laboratory experiences in MTSU’s College of Education, credited collaboration with the school’s pre-K-12 partners for its score on the clinical practice, also known as in-classroom experience and student teaching.
“It’s reflective of all the hard work that the university, our school partners, our faculty, their faculty and our teacher candidates have committed to … producing effective teachers for the future of our students in the classroom,” Lussier said. “That’s our focus. It’s not necessarily all about our teacher candidates, but the students that they’re going to be teaching in the classroom. That’s where the focus needs to be.”
Now in its fourth edition, the Teacher Prep Review assigns a team of experts to evaluate teacher
preparation programs on three elements of clinical practice: length of the experience, frequency of involvement from a program supervisor and selection of an effective mentor teacher.
“These top programs are to be commended,” observed Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “Too many teacher prep programs struggle to make clinical practice a meaningful learning experience for aspiring teachers…. The effort that these top programs have made to ensure alignment with their local districts so they can offer strong clinical experiences will have lasting positive impacts on their teacher candidates, and more importantly, their candidates’ future students.”
The NCTQ’s review recognized the top-performing programs for requiring candidates to spend 10 or more weeks in an experienced teacher’s classroom, screening mentor teachers for mentorship skill and instructional effectiveness as measured by student learning, among other skills, and requiring program supervisors to give student teachers written feedback based on observations at least four times during the clinical practice experience.
“This A reflects the quality work across many years of diligent work by Ms. Lussier with faculty and staff under the leadership of Dean Lana Seivers (emeritus), who received support from Provost (Mark) Byrnes and President (Sidney A.) McPhee,” said Rick Vanosdall, who assumed the role of interim education dean following Seivers’ retirement over the summer.
“This is truly an accomplishment that requires tremendous support from MTSU and our school district partners.”
While the council’s review also concluded that many schools struggle to select an effective mentor teacher for student teachers, Lussier noted that the MTSU College of Education works to build strong relationships with its 42 partner school districts to improve appropriate mentor teacher selection. The university has its most in-depth, intense partnerships with Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools, and “we’re working to … go deeper with our other partnerships as well,” Lussier said.
Lussier also knows the college will have to continue to work hard to remain a top school for its hands-on, in-the-field teacher preparation program.
“We even have to work harder to maintain this A because things are always changing, and even though we got an A, we still have areas that we need to improve,” she said. “We’re working with our primary partners (school districts) to identify what we need to do to take our program to the next level.”