TAMPA — Much like doctors' medical residency programs at hospitals, the University of South Florida and the Hillsborough County School District are teaming up to provide intensive in-classroom training to budding teachers.
Starting this fall, 30 USF undergraduate education students will be assigned schools where, from their first semester until they graduate, they will coteach with teachers in the Hillsborough County School District.
It's meant to give the education students more hands-on learning to more practically prepare them for the real world. But it will be equally beneficial for the students, who will have extra help from college students with knowledge of the latest education research, said Diane Yendol-Hoppey, chairwoman of USF's childhood and literacy studies department.
"We need the talents of both the Hillsborough public schools and the university to create really powerful teacher education," Yendol-Hoppey said. "This is in line with what educational reform groups are calling for."
The change sparked another shift at USF. Because of a limited number of spots, the university will soon cut the number of students accepted to the education college from several hundred to just 90 per year.
"It'll be more selective. I think that's a good thing," Yendol-Hoppey said.
She said there are currently about 700 total education students, juniors and seniors, still pursuing degrees. The new partnership program, which begins in the fall, will eventually include three cohorts of 30 students each.
On board so far are the MOSI Partnership Elementary School, across the street from USF, the on-campus Pizzo Elementary School and the USF/Patel Partnership Elementary School, both on the USF campus. Yendol-Hoppey said the goal is to expand that to six Title 1 schools, where the majority of students get free or reduced-price lunches.
For now, three Hillsborough County teachers will be put on special assignment to serve as liaisons between the school district and university. In addition to coteaching with the USF students in the elementary schools, they will teach courses to the same students at the university, said Gwen Luney, Hillsborough's assistant superintendent for student services and federal programs.
USF and the school district will each contribute funds for those teachers' salaries, with USF paying $99,200 in two installments and the Hillsborough district pumping in approximately $45,000 of Title 1 funds, Luney said.
She said she hopes the new initiative will lead to greater retention for new teachers, particularly in Hillsborough's high-needs schools.
"It's kind of a 'grow your own' kind of thing," she said.
Prior to this partnership, USF's education students spent only the last leg of their degree tracks in real elementary schools — a brief internship before being thrust into the working world.
Danielle Dennis, a USF professor who also helps coordinate the partnership, said one of the first things her students discover in the elementary classrooms is the way different kids learn differently.
Another surprise is that teaching is not just about standing in front of a class, but rather more interacting with students in small groups or one-on-one.
Getting that firsthand experience versus just hearing or reading about it gives USF education students an advantage when they graduate, Dennis said.
"Generally, there is a criticism of teacher education programs that it's all theory-based and the practice piece is missing. And generally, that's true," she said. "Our goal is to provide the opportunity to bridge that theory and practice."
Reach Kim Wilmath at email@example.com or 813-226-3337.