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Partnership pays off for Talawanda/Miami

Talawanda Superintendent Phil Cagwin says the three-year-old Talawanda-Miami Partnership is making a difference.

Miami is also seeing benefits. Faculty in the School of Education and Allied Professions have increased opportunities to conduct research, and Miami students are enjoying more and better quality opportunities to interact with K-12 students as tutors, classroom observers and students teachers, says Tom Poetter (educational leadership), Miami's co-chair of the Talawanda-Miami Partnership.

“We knew that things we did together had to have a mutual benefit,” says Poetter. The first goal, building relationships and trust, made it possible to successfully launch a number of initiatives - some proposed by Miami, some by Talawanda.

“We couldn't have a successful partnership task force with people too distanced from the classroom,” explained Poetter, “so we invited building liaisons - eight master Talawanda teachers - to participate and paid them a small stipend.”

One immediate benefit of getting the building liaisons involved has been smoothing out the process of involving the hundreds of education majors visiting Talawanda schools as part of their required field experiences. The building liaisons now deal with organizational and communication issues surrounding the visits, vastly reducing the frustrations of some classroom teachers who in the past felt overwhelmed and out-of-the-loop.

In addition, the “entire legion” of Miami students and community members who go into Talawanda schools to help with reading tutoring are volunteering in a more structured environment.

Poetter estimates that approximately 380 Miami students tutor Talawanda students.

Cagwin outlined several examples of the benefits he sees from the partnership:

• A $40,000 grant received through Miami's President's Academic Enrichment Awards provided welcome new funding for special initiatives such as a program to assist classroom teachers in the middle school and high school to more effectively work with older students who are still struggling to read.

• Many of the improvements spearheaded by the partnership involve areas such as curriculum enhancement, mentoring newly hired Talawanda teachers and improving the quality of the student-teacher experience through a new supervision model.

“These kinds of behind-the-scenes changes don't make headlines, but they do make a difference to us as teachers and administrators - and they make for classrooms that function better and students who learn more,” said Cagwin.

Here's a sampling of other partnership efforts:

• This fall the partnership is supporting a collaborative effort to provide an advanced placement (AP) course in calculus and chemistry at Talawanda High. Those new courses will complement AP courses currently offered in English and American history. Miami faculty members will work closely with Talawanda teachers to build and support the new offerings.

In addition, Talawanda - again with support from the partnership - is working to strengthen programming for students identified as gifted. Starting this fall, sixth- and seventh-graders who rank in the 95th percentile on a nationally normed math test will be eligible to take a new middle school math course in lieu of the regular sixth- and seventh-grade math offering.

• Miami doctoral students helped develop a course for Talawanda seniors exploring education as a career.

• Another course, developed and taught by Miami faculty, allows Talawanda teachers interested in becoming principals to extend practical knowledge and function as unofficial assistant principals.

Cagwin noted that since the partnership began, Talawanda has been upgraded from a “Continuous Improvement” to an “Effective” school district, as measured by the State of Ohio School Report Card.

Poetter is quick not to credit the partnership for the change.

“We are about improving education, not test scores,” he says.

But Superintendent Cagwin believes the partnership is helping speed up initiatives to improve the schools. “There is a definite impact. It is helping some teachers directly and all our teachers and students indirectly,” he says.

Date Published: 10/21/2004
Volume: 24   Number: 12

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