Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID)
Special Education and Vocational Rehabilitation Services

                                   Keeping Quality Teachers
The Art of Retaining General and Special Education Teachers

Promoting Linkages:
Partnerships Between Schools and Higher Education
            Section Five examines the dynamics of high quality partnerships between schools and institutions of higher education (IHE) teacher preparation programs. Emerging research indicates positive outcomes for teacher retention when schools and universities collaborate to create a climate in teacher education that extends through a teacher’s pre-service, induction and ongoing in-service years (Lucas & Robinson, 2002). Fleener (1999) studied the outcomes for teachers prepared within partnerships known as Professional Development Schools (PDS). She claims that the “Retention of PDS-trained new teachers is three times that of regularly prepared teachers.” Similarly, results of the NEA Professional Development School Research Project offer encouragement that partnerships between IHE teacher preparation programs and schools produce positive results with regard to teacher quality and student achievement, as well as teacher retention (AACTE Conference, Chicago, Ill, February 2004).

The Missed Opportunity

            Teacher education begins with pre-service teacher education, continues through induction, mentoring, staff development and lifelong learning. The fact that responsibility for teacher education has typically been divided between IHEs and schools, rather than shared between these systems, is a missed opportunity. The compartmentalization of teacher education has led to concerns about congruence and continuity. Wong (2003) stated, “Even graduates of excellent teacher education programs acknowledge that much of what they know of teaching was learned on the job” (p. 9). Concern for pre-service student teachers also arises when one considers many of the new realities of the teaching profession that are emerging at the end of the pre-service teachers’ undergraduate career. During the student teaching experience, pre-service teachers are most isolated from their college peers and faculty mentors (Paige, 2003). Moore-Johnson (2003) has conducted a four-year study that found that new teachers have lots of energy and commitment but little professional guidance on how to teach.

 Schools face criticism that they have not consistently chosen practices informed by research. In the classic work of Lotrie (1975), Schoolteacher, and Clandinin (1986), both authors describe the disconnect that exists between educational research and teacher practice. Moore-Johnson (1990) also documented the difficulties in higher education-school district relationships during student teaching. More recently, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (2002) legislation requires scientifically-based, research-to-practice strategies to increase academic achievement of students. The development of high quality systemic partnerships seeks to close these gaps between research, preparation and practice. 

Partnership Definition

            This section seeks to examine IHE-school partnerships and identify common factors, benefits and issues, and key elements of implementation. The PDS has long been identified as one such collaborative effort of schools and universities to link teacher preparation and school practice together to the benefit of numerous participants. The Holmes Group (1990) distinguished PDS from traditional student teaching placements.

By “Professional Development School” we do not mean just a laboratory school for university research, nor a demonstration school. Nor do we mean just a clinical setting for preparing student and intern teachers. Rather, we mean all of these together: a school for the development of novice professionals, and for the research and development of the teaching profession. (p. 1)

More recently, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has developed a set of standards for Professional Development Schools and has created a rubric to assess their quality (March 2001).  

An ideal PDS would be a constant presence on a continuum of service, addressing the needs of educators at all stages of their career. Darling-Hammond (1994) observes:

PDSs aim to provide new models of teacher education and development serving as exemplars of practice, builders of knowledge, and vehicles for communicating professional understandings among teacher educators, novices and veteran teachers. (p. 1)

 However, the ideal is rarely achieved and the phenomenon of the PDS is unique to each institution that undertakes to develop one. Since it is unlikely that a partnership will meet every PDS standard, educators are reluctant to call an IHE-school partnership a PDS until it has been long established and systemically embedded. For this reason, it is important to examine the reality that most IHE-school partnerships are PDSs at various stages of incomplete development. Clark (1999) and El-Amin, Cristol & Hammond (2000) have identified some common components of evolving partnerships that describe what they can do: 

  • Enhance pre-service education. Future teachers are prepared in programs that link college/university instruction and practical experiences in schools.

  • Enrich in-service teacher education. Teachers already employed in partner schools benefit from an array of professional development opportunities made available as a result of the school partnership.

  • Promote and conduct inquiry in teaching and learning. Partners view themselves as lifelong learners and continuously investigate the factors that contribute to successful teaching and learning.

  • Provide a model school or exemplary setting. Partners seek to create an optimal learning environment for all participants.

  • Promote positive outcomes for students in PreK-12. Partners seek to optimize outcomes for students as well as educators.

  • Change university teacher preparation programs. Teacher preparation programs benefit from grounded experience with schools, which help make university programs relevant.

  • Restructure schools. Schools benefit from IHE knowledge, research and leadership in implementing change.

  • Increase “professional relevance for university faculty.” Increased participation in schools provides more opportunities for experiences with students and teachers in school settings and helps immunize faculty against an “ivy tower syndrome.”

  • Integrate theory, research, practice and assessment. All parties benefit from a continuously self-informing cycle of theory — research — practice — assessment.

      Within these common features, each partnership is shaped according to the philosophy and orientation of each institution and the individuals who participate in its creation (Clark, 1999). The degree of emphasis placed on each of these missions will determine the place of each partnership on the career continuum of teacher education and the differences in outcomes. Snyder’s description (1994) of various perspectives & foci, as he observed them at Teachers College, can be illustrated by Figure 1. An emphasis on any one of these perspectives over another shifts the purpose and possibly the outcomes of the partnership.



       Figure 1

Text Box: University Development of the profession
Text Box: School Teachers
Outcomes for students
Text Box: Principals
Number of 
“people” in school & staff development
Text Box: District
Retention, recruitment, & renewal of staff
Text Box: Union 
Professional status & money
Text Box: Teacher Educators
Student teacher
& research
Text Box: IHE -

School Partnership





















Figure 1 created by M. Price (2000), based on Snyder, J. (1994). Perils and potentials: A tale of two Professional development schools. In L. Darling-Hammond (Ed.), Professional development schools: Schools for developing a profession (pp. 98-125). New York: Teacher College Press.


Benefits of IHE-School Partnership

      A well designed and implemented partnership holds great promise. Clark (1999) delineated a series of beneficial outcomes from a successful partnership implementation.


Table 1 — Benefits

In-service Teachers

School & Community

Pre-service Teachers


PreK-12 Students

·     Coordination of pre-service & in-service education

·      Perceive PDS in-service as more valuable

·     Exhibit more reflective practice

·      Teacher associations view PDS as enhancement to profession

·      Enhanced University involvement in community service

·      Reduced recruiting & retention costs

·      Readily available resources for professional development

·     Coordination of pre-service & in-service education

·     More familiar with practices required in schools

·     Preferred hiring status

·     Elicit better student participation than teachers assigned traditional internships

·      More quickly assume future leadership roles

·     Coordination of pre-service & in-service education

·     Tuition and fees from in-service

·     Veteran teachers select PDS university for future degrees

·     PDS-prepared teachers make better cooperating teachers for future

·      Better outcomes on measures of language arts and math

·     More adult attention

Table 1 created by M. Price (2000), based on Clark, R.W. (1999). Effective professional development schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc. Publishers, pp. 24-26.

      Others have noted the benefits of IHE-school partnerships in terms of practical consideration for future employment. Reinhartz & Stetson (1999) reported administrators’ perceptions of novice teachers who were prepared in PDS programs.

PDS teacher seemed to volunteer more than most new teachers at their school and the principals openly valued and admired their emerging leadership abilities. The principals cited as evidence of teachers’ leadership skills: (a) taking risks in trying new strategies and using technology in their classrooms, (b) appearing not to be threatened or intimidated by student who challenged them or by their supervisor’s classroom observations, and (c) working long hours and the workload seeming not to come as a surprise. The principals concluded the PDS trained teachers seemed better at evaluating themselves and dealing with their personal weaknesses by participating in problem solving sessions. (p. 170)

Issues and Considerations for Partnerships

            Dettmer, Thurston, and Dyck (2003) contend that effective collaboration requires the partners to begin their relationship with an assessment of their individual needs, desires and boundaries. Once the assessment reveals the areas of mutual self-interest for the partners, the work of implementation can begin. While the differing “histories and ideologies” of higher education and public schools, as well as the personalities or culture of the participants makes each partnership unique (Clark, 1999), advanced recognition of common differences can make it easier to consider ways to identify each collaborator’s needs and interests.

Through a comparison of some of the general situational, institutional and political climates of schools and IHEs, some differences and commonalities become apparent. For example, school attendance is mandatory for students under the age of 16. By contrast, enrollment within a college or university is a process of mutual consent. This difference changes the dynamics of the relationship between educators and students within each institution. The difference in the age and independence of learners also accounts for some differences in the way in which teachers and college faculty tend to interact with their respective students. There may be a tendency for school district personnel to expect college faculty to “control” their interns and student teachers as they might if they were younger children. College faculty may forget that adult learners tend to function with more independence and less direction than is often necessary in public schools. While this example is an oversimplification of personal interactions in each setting, it may be one factor in the perception that the other party “just doesn’t get it.” In truth, the common requirement of all educators is to adjust and respond to each learner’s individual needs and gifts, style and developmental level. When educators in a school-IHE partnership move to a position of mutual responsibility for the outcomes of pre-service teachers, in-service teachers, as well as public school students, this value is acknowledged and embraced.

     The general institutional culture of schools and universities is another contributing variance in partnerships. Teachers have a school day that typically extends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. However, many teachers invest their personal time in professional and related extracurricular activities well beyond the official school day. By contrast, IHE faculty keeps “office hours” of a shorter duration. To an unaware observer, it may seem that a professor who teaches only two or three courses and keeps various office hours is an underutilized resource. However, expectations for college faculty include research, publication, grant or project management, participation in the IHE program development/community, service to the profession/professional organizations as well as teacher preparation and student advisement. Additionally, most faculty involved with teacher preparation are deeply invested in their local schools and communities. These additional expectations are required but not often observed “on the clock.” While both partners are hard at work, there is a tendency for each to undervalue the contributions and commitments of the other.

            There are differences in the political experiences of schools and IHEs as well. While some universities are publicly funded, others rely on funding from private sources. In either case, both public and independent colleges and universities are reliant upon fluctuating student tuition. By contrast, public schools are dependent upon state, federal and local tax levies for funding. While it is clear that each group must deal with the pressures created by funding circumstances, it is helpful for each partner to recognize the issues of public relations and perceptions that impact the funding structure. Strong partners promote one another in public expressions of success and support through acknowledgement of their collaboration.

A Role for Policy Makers 

            Clark & Plecki (1997) contend that state and national policy makers need to understand that expectations for institutions become solidified if they are embedded in policies, which separate institutional responsibilities by constituency. Current policies hold universities responsible for teacher preparation and schools responsible for student learning. A new policy strategy would expect both universities and schools to share responsibilities for continuous teacher education, as well as PreK-16 student outcomes.

An illustration of this type of policy support is evident in a project supported by a State Improvement Grant awarded to New York State in 2001 by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. New York State has made a commitment, in policy and funding, to developing partnerships between schools in need of improvement and IHEs engaged in teacher preparation. The selection of high-need schools alters some of the dynamics of the relationship and goals by focusing pre-service and in-service teacher education on the need to improve student outcomes. The resulting relationship requires a forthright examination of research and practice in light of results for students.

            With sponsorship from the New York State Education Department, Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) and support from The Higher Education Support Center for SystemsChange (HESC) at Syracuse University, the Task Force on Quality Inclusive Schooling was established in 1996. The task force consists of representatives from New York State schools and professional development organizations who join with higher education professionals from over 63 New York State institutions of higher education. Task force member institutions commit to two goals:

  • to plan and implement an inclusive teacher education program, or to sustain such a program already in effect, and

  • to engage in and support the professional development efforts of selected high need schools and districts that have been identified in each of the state’s seven regions.

            Appendix 5-2, New York State Case Studies in IHE-School Partnerships, contains descriptions of several partnerships that have evolved in New York State. Additional information about the New York Higher Education Support Center for Systems Change and The Task Force on Quality Inclusive Schooling

Partnership Qualities 

            Members of the New York Task Force on Quality Inclusive Schooling worked together at two statewide meetings in 2003 to identify critical elements and the varying qualities of these types of partnerships as they have experienced them. As task force feedback was considered, a number of quality indicators seemed to emerge.

Quality Indicators


  1. The nature or degree of shared vision for, and commitment to, learning and teaching.

  2. Membership of the collaborative teams who enact the partnership.

  3. The nature and degree of collaboration in policy making and governance regarding teacher preparation and in-service professional development commitments.

  4. The nature, purpose and extent of communication between partners.

  5. The degree to which the partnership is institutionalized.

  6. The quality and nature of partnership planning.

  7. Quality of partnership implementation in light of the benefits to teacher preparation programs.

  8. Quality of partnership implementation in light of the benefits to schools.

  9. Nature and extent of ongoing partnership assessment and refinement.

The resulting document is A Rubric for Assessing the Qualities of Partnerships Between Schools and Teacher Preparation Programs at Institutions of Higher Education (see Appendix 5-4). The purpose of the rubric is to assist in assessing partnerships between schools and IHE teacher preparation programs. By focusing on specific quality indicators, this rubric may be used to help assess these partnerships for a variety of purposes:

  1. When used as a self-assessment, the rubric may serve as a pre-program needs assessment from which an action plan can be drawn.

  2. The rubric may serve as an ongoing self-assessment.

  3. The rubric may serve as an observational tool for individuals seeking to learn more about such partnerships.

The value of the matrix form is to identify some likely stages in partnership development. It is important to understand that partnerships need time to form, grow and mature. Partnership members may use the developmental framework (drawing board, evolving, established, exemplary) as a guide to set goals for future growth. Certainly, as new partnerships emerge and mature, other quality indicators and manifestations of successful partnerships may be documented. Partnership participants, observers and evaluators should consider this document to be an approximation of current best practices.

Steps toward Partnership Enactment

There are several steps, which facilitate partnership enactment.

  1. Identify existing relationships between schools and IHE teacher preparation programs.
  2. Assess the quality of the existing relationships. (The partnership rubric could be used for this purpose.)
  3. Determine if any of the existing relationships form the basis of a desirable IHE-school partnership. If not, seek other potential partnership members.
  4. Once partnership members are selected, determine the shared vision or ultimate goal(s) of the partnership. (Figure 1 may contribute to identifying the purpose of the partnership.)

  5. Determine each party’s desired outcomes or benefits. (Table 1 may support the articulation of desired outcomes or benefits.)
  6. Clarify roles, responsibilities (See Figure 1) and expectations. This might result in a written statement of agreement. (See Sample Statements of Agreements in Appendix 5-3.)
  7. Develop a work plan, timeline and document efforts. (See case studies in Appendix 5-2.)
  8. Develop mechanisms for ongoing feedback from all parties and consider periodic assessment and refinement of the partnership. (The partnership rubric could be used for this purpose.)


            IHE-school partnerships greatest contribution to teacher retention may be the commitment to and enactment of a shared mission of continuous teacher education. In an exit survey of new teachers (New York City Department of Education, 2003), Fred Smith identified numerous factors that contributed to teachers leaving employment including the following.

  • Two vital areas where schools can exert the most control are seen as ones in which they are least effective: 1) offering the leadership and organization needed to set a positive tone and nurture new teachers; and 2) sustaining them with instructional support/supervision and professional development.

  • Areas in which administration and supervision were rated ineffective include: working with teachers to develop and implement pedagogic strategies and skills; working with teachers to develop and meet curriculum standards; and acknowledging/recognizing individual achievement.

Given that IHE teacher preparation programs also are committed to teacher development, instructional support and the implementation of pedagogic support, it seems logical that partnerships committed to these common goals be implemented. A more consistent understanding of the needs of beginning teachers would inform pre-service and in-service professional development, thereby minimizing the stress of the induction period.  

The rookie year exposes them to the nature of the job, the differences between their [beginning teacher] expectations and reality and, ultimately, to greater awareness about their own abilities and character. The school forms the core of the decision to stay or to leave teaching. (New York City Department of Education, 2003)

            Smith identifies the school as the core responsible for the teachers’ decision to stay or leave teaching. In fact, the education community consisting of IHEs, school leaders, professional teachers/mentors and staff development specialists share that responsibility. 

Perhaps, the question that should be asked is this: If it takes a village to raise a child and, in profound ways, schools are that village — to both their students and new teachers alike — then, what does it take to make a flourishing village? There is a societal obligation to answer the question and make that happen. (New York City Department of Education, 2003)

Perhaps, the partnership between IHEs and schools form the beginning of the educational community’s response to retaining quality teachers.

The following appendices include resources that will further assist school districts and schools in developing a framework for partnerships with IHEs to strengthen the ability of schools to support and promote teacher retention.

Appendix 5-1 summarizes the experiences of school districts and IHE partners in New York State, providing a description of the benefits of New York State sponsored IHE-school partnerships.

Appendix 5-2 offers a selection of New York State case studies in IHE-school partnerships demonstrating approaches developed by four emerging partnerships throughout the state.

 Appendix 5-3 introduces sample statements of agreements that can be adapted by IHEs and school districts seeking to create formal agreements for collaborative relationships.

 Appendix 5-4 establishes a framework for successful partnerships with a well defined rubric for assessing the qualities of partnerships between schools and IHE teacher preparation programs.


Clark, R.W. (1999). Effective professional development schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc. Publishers.

Clark, R.W. & Plecki, M.L. (1997). Professional development schools: Their cost and financing. In M. Levine & R Trachtman (Eds.), Making professional development schools work: Politics, practices and policy (pp. 134-158). New York: Teachers College Press.

Darling-Hammond, L. (1994). Developing professional development schools: Early lessons, challenge, and promise. In L. Darling-Hammond (Ed.), Professional development schools: Schools for developing a profession (pp. 1-27). New York: Teachers College Press.

Dettmer, P. Thurston, L.P.Dyck, N. (2003). Consultation, collaboration and teamwork for students with special needs. Boxton: Allyn & Bacon. 

El-Amin, C., Cristol, D & Hammond, D. (2000). Constructing a professional development school: A model of one school-university partnership. The Teacher Educator, pp. 1-14.

Fleener, C. (1999, February). “Teacher attrition: Do PDS programs make a difference?” Paper presented at the Distinguished Dissertation in Education Award Winner, Association of Teacher Educators Annual Conference, Chicago, IL. 

Holmes Group. (1990). Tomorrow’s schools: Principles for the design of professional development schools. East Lange, MI: Author.

Moore-Johnson, S. (1990). Teachers at work: Achieving success in our schools. New York: Basic Books.

Moore-Johnson, S. (2003, November). Finders keepers: Schools that attract and retain teachers. Paper presented at the meeting of the Teacher Education Division of the Council of Exceptional Children, Biloxi, MS.

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (Spring 2001). Standards for professional development schools.

New York City Department of Education. (2003). Executive summary — Cohort 2001: An exit survey of new teachers who left the New York City public schools within one year.

Paige, S.M. (2003). Autonomy in the pre-service teacher: A retention factor for special education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Buffalo, New York.

Reinhartz, J. & Stetson, R. (1999). Teachers as leaders: A question or an expectation. In D.M. Byrd & D.J. McIntyre (Eds.), Research on professional development schools (pp. 157-172). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Snyder, J. (1994). Perils and potentials: A tale of two professional development schools. In L. Darling-Hammond (Ed.), Professional development schools: Schools for developing a profession (pp. 98-125). New York: Teachers College Press.



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