North Central College forges innovative partnerships with local school districts

Jan 16, 2013

North Central College’s innovative partnerships with local public schools are creating more opportunities for future educators and collaborative solutions to education challenges.

Three school districts have approved memoranda of understanding with the College: Naperville Community Unit School District 203, Indian Prairie School District 204 and East Aurora School District 131. The agreements pledge mutual efforts “to attain excellence in education through the development of future and practicing teachers, teacher leaders and school administrators to positively impact student achievement.”

Though the formal agreements are new, North Central College over many years has established partnerships with more than two dozen local schools to provide field experiences for its education students. North Central’s field experience students assist in K-12 classrooms by teaching lessons, working with children in small groups and providing one-on-one tutoring. In turn, the public schools assist North Central students by providing high-quality teacher and leader mentors and a vast array of other educational opportunities.

The formal agreements will help all participants achieve the mutual goal of positively impacting student achievement and addressing rigorous expectations of the state through Common Core standards.

“This really is the model that the state wants us to have,” says Kathy Birkett, superintendent of Indian Prairie School District 204. “So we’re a little bit ahead of the game in that we’re moving ahead of other schools in the area to adopt these changes pretty quickly.”

Education students at North Central College have opportunities to gain student-teaching and other types of experiences in a variety of settings: preschool, elementary, middle school and high school classrooms serving a range of populations, from students with special needs to academic high-achievers.

“North Central College students who come into our schools are walking into classrooms that really reflect the real world,” says Dan Bridges, superintendent of Naperville Community Unit School District 203. “It’s an opportunity for them to see different types of learning styles and interact with students with different needs.”

The formal partnerships exemplify how North Central College is a pacesetter in preparing future teachers, principals and school leaders, says Maureen Kincaid, associate professor and chair of education at North Central College.

“Our education program is very focused on the environment that students will experience as teachers,” Kincaid says. “We’re always looking to teachers, classrooms and student learning in the K-12 setting to make sure our curriculum is preparing candidates for that environment.”

Kristine Servais, North Central College associate professor of education and coordinator of the master of arts program in education, says partnerships with local schools provide excellent mentoring opportunities for future principals and school leaders.

“Our candidates are placed in schools where principals want them,” Servais says. “The state is very demanding about qualifications to be a principal mentor. Fortunately we work with high-functioning principals who are willing to pay it forward and train future principals.”

North Central College offers several opportunities for students interested in education, including  undergraduate degrees in elementary education and secondary education, with options to earn minors in reading and English language learning and an endorsement in special education. Undergraduate majors also are offered in art education, music education and physical education, as well as a minor in health education. The College offers a master of arts degree in education, with emphasis in curriculum and instruction or educational leadership and administration. Master of arts in education is among seven graduate degrees offered at North Central College.