The Role of Educator Preparation Programs in Fostering Partnerships With Schools in Supporting English Language Learners, Immigrant Families, and Special Education

The Role of Educator Preparation Programs in Fostering Partnerships With Schools in Supporting English Language Learners, Immigrant Families, and Special Education

Arnold Nyarambi, Zandile P. Nkabinde
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4712-0.ch005
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Teacher educator preparation programs play a central role in preparing teachers and practitioners who work with children with exceptionalities, immigrants, and English language learners (ELL), among others. Research indicates that immigrants, ELL, and children with exceptionalities benefit from effective family-professional partnerships in several ways. Family-professional relationships are also key in producing positive educational outcomes for vulnerable and children who are at-risk. The following layers of partnerships and relationships are discussed: university-based educator preparation programs (EPPs) and K-12 schools; immigrant families and K-12 schools; and teachers/caregivers in K-12 schools and immigrant children/ELL, including children with exceptionalities. The benefits of positive partnerships and relationships are discussed. These include positive educational outcomes for children and their families, positive outcomes for children's school readiness, enhanced quality of life for families and their children, family engagement in children's programs, strengthening of home-school program connection, and trust-building for all stakeholders.
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Special education and general education teacher preparation programs play an important role in preparing teachers to work with children with exceptionalities, English Language Learners (ELL) and immigrant children in inclusive settings. During teacher training in educator preparation programs (EPPs), teacher candidates should be provided opportunities to interact with students from various backgrounds in inclusive and real classroom settings in order to enhance their knowledge and skills base and cultural competence. This includes opportunities to interact and teach students who are immigrants, ELL individuals with disabilities and those at-risk. Teaching these populations involves various layers of partnership and collaboration. University-school partnerships provide the platform for classroom-based experience through right curriculum, practicums, preclinical, student teaching, teacher residency and or other forms of internships. In the past, universities were charged with teacher preparation programs and research and or workshops aimed at benefiting school systems. Partridge, Gage, Johnson (1992) asserted that in the past, universities were considered “The Ivory Tower,” while schools were “The Real World.” Thus, schools became the laboratories where teaching theories were tested. Schools were always on the receiving end of preservice teacher candidates in field experiences from the universities. However, according to Partridge et al. (1992) this practice changed with the publication of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform in 1983. The call for educational school improvement also encouraged universities to establish effective, mutually beneficial university-school partnerships.

Teacher educator preparation programs have multiple functions in fostering partnerships in the special education process, including partnerships with families of children who are ELL and immigrants. These functions include but are not limited to university-school district partnerships; internships; formal mentorship programs; professional developments; practicums; teacher residencies, workshops tailored to specific local needs as well as field-based research projects. A goal of special and general education is to ensure collaboration among professionals who work closely with children with disabilities, ELL, and immigrants, among other related population. This chapter discusses the role of educator preparation programs in fostering partnerships in the special education process, including students who are ELL and immigrants. The university-school partnerships facilitate a smooth transition from the classroom to real life situations in the outside working world. Partridge et al (1992) described university-school partnerships as a process of bringing the ivory tower and the real world together as a way of strengthening their capabilities in bringing about positive changes in the education system and enhancing educational outcomes for children. The partnership between universities and school districts is essential as it is a backdrop of action and practical research that is mutually beneficial to schools and universities. Research indicates that effective family-professional partnerships are essential in achieving academic, social, emotional, cognitive, physical, behavioral, transition benefits for children with exceptionalities, including students who are immigrants and ELL (Turnbull, Turnbull, Erwin, Soodak, Shogren 2015; Turnbull, Turnbull, Wehyemer & Shogren 2016; Friend & Cook 2017 & Turnbull, Turnbull, Wehyemer & Shogren 2020).

The role of educator preparation programs in producing highly qualified teachers including special educators has been crucial and timely in light of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The act became the first federal education policy to introduce the phrase “high quality teacher.” Its recommendations included placing greater emphasis on subject-area training for teachers, placing professional education courses in a fifth or graduate year, and increasing standards for entry into the teaching profession (Winzer, 2009). Smith and Tyler (2010) posited that, highly qualified teachers are described by NCLB as follows:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaboration: Is when each professional work in a collaborative team by sharing, planning and utilizing their varied professional expertise for the benefit of children with disabilities. It is based on shared goals, resources, and responsibility for key decisions (Friend & Bursuck, 2019). Collaboration can vary from general education teachers working with special education teachers and/or a Speech Language Pathologist working with a special education teacher in serving children with disabilities.

At Risk Students: These are students whose family circumstances and or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) put them at risk for school failure and/or underachievement. Students from low income households, foster homes, homeless shelters, and those children who are exposed to neglect and abuse of any kind are at risk of school failure.

Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM): An evaluation designed to ensure accountability among teachers in the state of Tennessee. This assessment enhances the quality of teaching as well as that of students. The TEAM model is used to assess and evaluate teaching and learning following a specific criteria and rubric.

Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs): These are teacher training programs that prepare specific subject curricula area typically for teacher certification and licensing.

IDEIA: Individuals with Disabilities Education and Improvement Act was first enacted in 1975 and was called Public Law (PL) 94-142, Education for All Handicapped Children (EHA). This law guarantees free appropriate public education for all children with disabilities. It requires that education for these students be provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

Section 504: This is a civil rights and antidiscrimination law that guarantees accommodation to all students who are not eligible for special education services. For example, students who have ADHD may be entitled to extended time for exams and or a student who is hard of hearing may need a note taker. Certain students may need special testing situations e.g., untimed tests and or oral directions etc.

University-School Partnerships: Are relationships in which educator-preparation programs collaborate with school professionals and families, capitalizing on each other’s judgements and expertise to increase the benefits of education for all students, including those with special characteristics.

Individualized Education Program (IEP): a program for individuals with special needs that is individualized and tailored to build on the strengths and meet leaning needs of a student with special needs. The document that describes individualized special services for children with disabilities who are 3 to 21 years of age. The IEP as described by Bryant et al., (2008) as a communication tool between the school and home which spells out what each child’s individualized education should comprise.

No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001): An education act, which was replaced by Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2016 requires that students with mild disabilities receive their education in the general education classrooms.

Cooperating Teachers: These are veteran teachers who are assigned to work with student teachers as instructional mentors and role models. There are also called mentor teachers.

Cultural Brokers: These are persons who provide a link between two different cultures as a way to reduce cultural bias and conflict. Cultural brokers operate like language interpreters except that this is done like bridging the gap between two distinct cultures.

Family-Professional Partnerships: Are relationships in which families and professionals collaborate with each other, sharing judgement and expertise in helping students with special characteristics.

English Language Learners: Persons whose first language is not English.

Inclusion: It is the philosophy and practice of educating students with disabilities in general classrooms. Inclusive practices are described by Friend and Bursuck (2019) as a philosophy based on three dimensions such as physical integration, social integration, and instructional integration.

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