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Press Briefing Spotlights Work of AACTE Clinical Practice Commission

Members of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission speak at the National Press Club January 17. Left to right: Jennifer Roth, Diane Fogarty, Kristien Zenkov, and Jennifer Robinson.

AACTE hosted a press briefing January 17 in Washington, DC, showcasing the work of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission (CPC) and releasing the report A Pivot Toward Clinical Practice, Its Lexicon, and the Renewal of Educator Preparation.

Held in the historic National Press Club, the briefing opened with a welcome from AACTE Board Past Chair Jane Bray, dean of the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University (VA). More than half the members of AACTE’s Board of Directors were in attendance, as were 30 members of the CPC and dozens of representatives from Washington-area education organizations, colleges and universities, news media, and AACTE staff.

AACTE Vice President Rodrick Lucero, who chairs the CPC, celebrated the advent of the report and acknowledged the commissioners in the room. His remarks were followed by a brief video presentation about the group’s mission, “The Commission at Work” (click here to view the video).

Following the video, a panel discussion probed “Where We Were, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going: The Clinical Practice Commission Findings,” guided by moderator Jennifer Robinson of Montclair State University (NJ). This segment, which lasted a full hour, was also shared via live webcast with more than 150 viewers from around the country (click here to view a recording of the webcast).

The panelists included Christine Slattery, principal of Garfield Elementary School (VA) – a professional development school partner of George Mason University – along with five CPC members:

  • Diane Fogarty, Loyola Marymount University (CA)
  • Jennifer Roth, Fort Collins High School (CO)
  • Roland Schendel, Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO)
  • Diane Yendol-Hoppey, University of North Florida
  • Kristien Zenkov, George Mason University (VA)
clinical practice commission report cover page image

Zenkov began by saying the commission aimed to produce a report that would not just sit on a shelf but rather be a useful guide for advancing practice around the country. He also explained the need for a common lexicon, noting that although most people agree in principle that it would be helpful to use the same terms for key roles, in reality the terms are entrenched in local practice and policy. The commission recommends a brief glossary to streamline these diverse terms.

Robinson asked the panel about the CPC’s definition of clinical practice. “We’re talking about the centrality of the clinical space to our work – we’re insisting upon that,” said Yendol-Hoppey. “More than just bridging theory-to-practice gaps within courses, which in and of itself is excellent pedagogy, [we also need] to create systematic and intentional linkages programmatically so that field work is woven throughout entire programs.”

Schendel spoke to the commission’s choice of articulating proclamations of what works – a “synthesis of all the good we’ve found.” Fogarty said she hopes the report’s positive tone will “set the world on fire” in relation to how teachers are prepared.

Asked by Robinson what it takes to establish successful clinical partnerships, panelists listed numerous factors. “It takes an unrelenting commitment by all the stakeholders within the partnership to actually ‘resource’ what matters,” said Yendol-Hoppey – fiscal and human resources, in the right place and at the right time. “It requires governance structures that allow faculty to build things together. It requires accountability […] in the truest sense of progress and innovation.”

Slattery added that it’s important to start small and take care to bring everyone on board, explaining how she started Garfield’s partnership with George Mason University. “We had George Mason students come in and do practicum hours so we could start to build that relationship,” she said. “Then we had our university facilitator provide an overview to staff” of what it means to be a PDS and go over roles and responsibilities. They continue to nurture newcomers through practices such as a spring match-making session between mentor teachers and incoming interns and inquiry partnerships among past and current interns and experienced teachers.

Following the panel discussion, another commissioner, Audra Parker of George Mason University, facilitated questions for the panelists from the audience.

Asked about where the commission anticipates resistance to their recommendations, Zenkov says some institutions of higher education are not adequately familiar with the work in schools to reward it appropriately. Fogarty added that shortage situations also can stand in the way of quality, as pressure builds to push candidates through preparation quickly. Roth said a significant challenge is the lack of training for most mentor teachers to prepare them to be instructional coaches. Schendel said funding is a major sticking point – quality partnerships should not depend on the altruism of participants.

Panelists also emphasized that building strong clinical partnerships and the culture to support them must be done one site at a time to account for local context – which takes patience and persistence, Schendel noted. Zenkov said the CPC work helps to unify and rally the profession around common goals and continuous improvement, which could also help alleviate teacher turnover and shortage situations.

AACTE Vice President Rodrick Lucero addresses the audience at the National Press Club.

“You will notice that the word reform was not mentioned today,” Lucero said as he closed out the briefing. “Reform connotes throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What we do for kids in the United States is good, and it will always and forever more need to get better […]. And so we opt for renewal.

For more information about the CPC and links to related resources, read AACTE’s press release, visit aacte.org/cpc, and view the Twitter stream at #AACTEcpc. You can also learn more about the commission’s report and future work plans in a “Deeper Dive” session at the AACTE Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, Saturday, March 3, at 9:00 a.m. EST.

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Kristin McCabe

Editor, AACTE

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