Context of the Partnership:

Built on the Talents and Strengths of All Partners

The Professional Development System is a comprehensive university-school partnership that aligns efforts and resources for the improvement of education for students in southeastern North Carolina. The continuing struggle to prepare, recruit and retain excellent teachers given the prevailing work conditions, the array of pressures education faces and recent news articles in North Carolina have signaled the alarm that another teacher shortage crisis is on the horizon.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington recognized early that true systemic reform of teacher preparation would require honest and aggressive partnerships among schools of education, public schools and the general public. Given this reality, the Watson College of Education began in 1989 to develop two major and parallel initiatives, the Model Clinical Teaching Project and the Consortium for the Advancement of Public Education’s School Reform Initiative. The important efforts laid the foundation for authentic partnerships. Critical elements of these two pilot initiatives were formally embraced by the participants, resulting in the establishment of a comprehensive university/school collaboration in 1993, the Professional Development System (PDS).

This new structure included the Watson College of Education administrators and faculty and public school partners from 47 schools in nine school districts and one Department of Defense in southeastern North Carolina: Brunswick County, Camp Lejeune, Clinton City, Columbus County, Duplin County, New Hanover County, Onslow County, Pender County, Sampson County, and Whiteville City. Since the initial design phase, partners have recognized that this type of collaboration and commitment to the critical elements would necessitate intense, sustained engagement.

All partners believed that, in time, the collaborative model would have a significant impact on our Professional Development System partnership schools, as well as on the organization, content, and delivery of UNCW’s teacher preparation program. Indeed, the partnership is beginning to produce tangible evidence that its efforts are resulting in increased levels of readiness by beginning teachers and higher retention rates of teachers in the profession.

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