These last few weeks have been trying for many of us; and for our colleagues at Malcolm Price Lab School, this time has been desperate and disparate. As I stated in my message to students, I recognize that Malcolm Price Lab School has been an established component of the teacher education program at the University of Northern Iowa for ovee 50 years. Throughout the years, the faculty and staff have created a learning environment that was responsive to the educational needs of PK-12 learners as well as education students. The faculty was specifically chosen because of their commitment to teaching and teacher preparation. Another component of the laboratory school was to create, implement, and showcase effective instructional practices and innovative curriculum design.
As I reflect on the wealth of expertise the lab school provided, I would be remiss to state that the school was the foundational element of the teacher education program. As a former normal school, UNI’s mission was to populate the state with teachers. Currently we prepare 25% of the teachers in the state and 33% of the principals and superintendents. I came to UNI because of this 136 year history of preparing teachers. I came to UNI because the university had a strategic commitment to teacher education. I came to UNI because there were dedicated faculty who invested their professional lives in the care and preservation of effective teaching. With the closing of the laboratory school, the reasons I came to UNI still persist.
Due to the closing of Malcolm Price Laboratory School, a multitude of students are concerned that this will be the demise of teacher education at UNI. I understand their concern about the future of teacher education at UNI. As I read every letter I received from students and I listened to the commentary about students’ support of the lab school, it was revealed that they wanted:
Committed and supportive teachers to guide them through their clinical experiences;
Proximity experiences that fit into their instructional day; and,
Authentic classroom settings in which they can perfect their craft at becoming effective teachers.
To remedy the students’ concerns, we need to establish demonstrative, collaborative partnerships that fulfill UNI’s need for varied clinical experiences. Recently, in conversations with the Cedar Falls and Waterloo superintendents, there was a determined commitment on the part of the superintendents to:
Avail their teachers for intentional, connected, sustainable field experiences;
Guarantee placement slots based on UNI’s needs;
Support the Teacher Work Sample and the preparation necessary to engage their teachers in this process;
Accommodate schedules that will allow for proximal, short-term field experiences similar to the Level II experiences at Price Lab School;
Establish a distributive model for clinical placement and supervision that will enable university-based faculty to work in the schools to support practicing teachers and teacher education students; and
Create shared professional development and co-teaching opportunities for practicing teachers and university faculty in order to nurture the instructional abilities of education students.
I exited these meetings energized and enthused that what we were proposing would move us toward our premier aspirations. I have always believed that through adversity there is opportunity. The closing of Malcolm Price Lab School will indeed be a mournful occurrence, but it will not be the demise of the teacher education program at the University of Northern Iowa. I came to UNI to situate our legendary program as the premier teacher education program in the state and nation. With the assurances from our collaborative partners, I am even more committed to this aspirational intent and encourage your commitment as well, as we journey together.