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A highly successful teacher certification program at Black Hills State University, known as Project SELECT, was recognized at the national Day on the Hill, as one of five innovative educational partnerships that are making a positive impact on student learning.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) hosted a congressional briefing last week, entitled “Partnerships That Work: Turning Around Low-Performing Schools,” which offered examples from around the country of partnerships between colleges of education and K-12 school districts that have had a major impact on student learning. The briefing featured five partnerships that exemplify effective practices in turning around low-performing schools.

BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp says Project SELECT is an accelerated program dedicated to excellence in teacher preparation at the secondary level, with certification as its final outcome. She is gratified that the program is receiving national attention for its success.

“I’m proud that Project SELECT is being recognized on the national level. This is a remarkable program that has proven its effectiveness and is transforming the lives of the future teachers and their students,” Schallenkamp says. “This is one of only five programs in the nation that will be recognized. I’m very proud of the BHSU College of Education for being innovative in their approach to education and responding to needs in the region.”

President Schallenkamp, Dr. Nancy Hall, dean of the College of Education, and Rick Hamilton, a recent BHSU graduate, who prepared as a math teacher through Project SELECT, attended the Congressional briefing.

Hamilton discussed the partnership between the College of Education at BHSU and the Rapid City school district. Hamilton, who was educated as an engineer and later worked in business, explained why the partnership is successful and why it worked so well for him.

“After a career in retail management, where my engineering background truly helped me to think systematically and become outcome-driven, I began to realize that I really enjoyed teaching people. I am now certified in both middle and high school math and am proud to say, I’m a math teacher,” Hamilton said.

After spending 30 weeks in a school placement and applying what he learned, Hamilton says he now has the confidence and tools to be an effective teacher.

“It is critically important to understand the culture and background of each learner, and through my experience with Project SELECT, I have developed a great respect for the rich cultural heritage of Lakota/Nakota students and their families. I’ve learned about the life styles of students in several ways: through my own research, through our coursework, and through our cohort’s visits to the schools on the reservation,” Hamilton said.

“Now is the time for us to focus on improving the lives of our children.  With a program like Project SELECT, every student is given a fighting chance to succeed in this world. I am a career changer.  I am a teacher and I am excited to teach math,” Hamilton says.

BHSU’s College of Education in South Dakota began offering Project SELECT in the fall of 2004 to meet the needs of individuals who have been in the workforce in other professions and who wanted to teach. From its inception, this program was designed to contribute to school improvement initiatives in high-needs schools according to Dr. Nancy Hall, dean of the College of Education at BHSU.

Project SELECT’s partner, the Rapid City Area Schools, includes four professional development school sites. The schools are: North Middle School, South Middle School, Rapid City Central High School and Rapid City Stevens High School. North Middle School was selected as the first Project SELECT partner because of its commitment to the training of teachers, its large Native American student population, and its placement in school improvement as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act. The Project SELECT-North Middle School partnership is in its fourth year and has involved 20 North Middle School teachers and 37 teachers-in-training to date.

At the briefing, AACTE released a publication, “Partnerships That Work: Turning Around Low-Performing Schools,” which profiles additional partnerships from around the country and provides evidence of their success.  The briefing is part of AACTE’s Day on the Hill, which aims to facilitate a strong connection between Association members and their representatives in Congress and to enhance advocacy efforts on behalf of educator preparation programs that further the advancement of student progress and achievement. Other educational partnerships recognized at the Day on the Hill were:

•  Linda Darling-Hammond, professor, and Nicki Ramos-Beban, former school principal and current doctoral student at Stanford University’s School of Education, will speak about a partnership between the university and several local schools.

• Christopher Steinhauser, superintendent of the award-winning Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), will discuss the impact of the Urban Teaching Academy at the College of Education at California State University, Long Beach on the preparation of LBUSD teachers.

• Kendrick Johnson, a recent MAT graduate and new teacher, will discuss the impact of the partnership between the National College of Education at National-Louis University (IL) and Chicago’s Academy for Urban School Leadership on his ability to teach inner-city students.

• Roger León, former principal, now assistant superintendent of Newark Public Schools, will describe how a partnership between Montclair State University’s College of Education (NJ) and several Newark schools meets educational needs in some of the nation’s most challenging classrooms.

AACTE President and CEO Sharon P. Robinson, who served as the briefing’s moderator, said, “These partnerships illustrate the commitment of AACTE member institutions to the needs of the most vulnerable students in their communities,” Robinson said.  “AACTE programs that prepare professional educators are working with others to assure that low-performing schools become effective organizations that provide these students with the knowledge and skills necessary for active and productive citizenship.”

For more information contact Alyssa Mangino, AACTE communications manager, at amangino@aacte.org or 202.478.4596. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is a national, voluntary association of almost 800 higher education institutions and other organizations and is dedicated to ensuring the highest quality preparation and continuing professional development for teachers and school leaders in order to enhance PK-12 student learning. Collectively, the AACTE membership prepares more than two thirds of the new teachers entering schools each year in the United States.