Higher Education and Human Resources

Co-teaching program boosts student achievement

March 24, 2017
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co-teaching classroom Alpine Elementary School
Teacher Lyndsey Trierweile, left, and student teacher Kelsey Peterson work with students. Courtesy Alpine Elementary School

It turns out two teachers are better than one at a school in the area.

A partnership between Grand Valley State University’s College of Education and the Kenowa Hills Public School District placed student teachers in K-3 classrooms full-time for one year, alongside the existing classroom teachers, rather than by themselves.

GVSU reported last month that the co-teaching model, applied at Alpine Elementary School in Comstock Park beginning in 2016, helped meet student needs better, improved planning and reflection and allowed for diversity of ideas and viewpoints.

Jason Snyder, principal of Alpine Elementary, said comparative data is not yet available for year-to-year measurement of test scores, but he expects the scores will show improvement.

“Student achievement is definitely up without question,” Snyder said.

Happy with the results, KHPS is hoping to expand the program to upper-level elementary grades soon. Currently, there are 11 GVSU student teachers at Alpine Elementary.

Based on a study

The initial idea for the co-teaching model came about in response to a study administered during the 2015-16 school year at West Ottawa Public Schools by GVSU College of Education faculty members.

They analyzed whether having two adults teaching in the classroom would have a greater effect on student achievement than one teacher.

The results showed significant increases in the students’ test scores from fall to winter, in each subject area, for every grade level involved with the program.

Sheryl Vlietstra, affiliate professor of education at GVSU, said the study was partly launched because of hesitation by school districts to put student teachers at the helm of K-12 classrooms.

“K-12 teachers have many state requirements to fulfill, and there is an old perception that teachers have to turn their classrooms over to student teachers, causing a possible disruption in the curriculum,” Vlietstra said.

Collaboration

Snyder said having student teachers at Alpine Elementary for a full year helped them get to know the elementary students better academically and personally.

“This is huge for our kids,” Snyder said. “When it’s time for GVSU students to move into their student teaching time, they have the knowledge to individualize instruction, boosting student achievement. Their long-term presence in the classroom has also been positive for our overall school culture, which isn’t captured in the data.”

Mike Burde, assistant superintendent of Kenowa Hills Public Schools, said the data stands alone in demonstrating how the partnership is improving student achievement.

“We believe higher levels of collaboration lead to higher levels of student achievement,” Burde said.

Doug Busman, associate professor of education at GVSU, said the partnership highlights the importance of the college’s Teacher Preparation Program in mentoring and graduating future teachers.

“The high quality of the Grand Valley pre-service teacher and the level of competence, patience and commitment on the part of the Alpine teacher professionals made this project a success,” Busman said.

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