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Unique Partnership Between Spokane Public Schools, Gonzaga and Whitworth Benefits Region

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A student in Gonzaga's Master of Initial Teaching Program works with a Spokane Public Schools student.

The partnership aims to close the opportunity gap for elementary school students and families by leveraging resources of the partner institutions.

Legislature Funds Collaboration

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Washington State Legislature’s recently approved biennial budget has fully funded a $500,000 partnership between Spokane Public Schools and Gonzaga and Whitworth universities to improve student learning and educational services at Holmes Elementary School and provide intensive teacher preparation sites for the two universities.

The partnership aims to close the opportunity gap for elementary school students and families by leveraging resources of the partner institutions to increase and improve services. Further, it seeks to create an innovative and shared model of clinically based teacher preparation based on best practices – a model similar to a medical residency.

The project is among three unique education initiatives statewide based on collaboration between university and P-12 educators. The other projects involve collaboration between University of Washington and Seattle Public Schools, and Western Washington University and the Mt. Vernon School District. All three projects received planning grants in October and submitted their innovation and success plans in March. The plans were approved by the state Professional Educators Standards Board in mid-May, resulting in a total of $1.5 million – $500,000 per project – from the Legislature for the next two years. Funding for the remaining years of the projects will be sought through future budgets. In Spokane’s partnership, Gonzaga will receive roughly $100,000 a year for the next two years.

The Collaborative Schools for Innovation and Success (CSIS) grant proposal was developed by SPS in collaboration with education faculty at Gonzaga and Whitworth. Providing leadership for their respective institutions are: John Traynor, co-chair of Gonzaga’s teacher education department; Debbie Tully, Whitworth’s associate dean of teacher education and school partnerships; and Stephanie Lundberg, Holmes’ principal assistant.

I am very excited about the opportunities that this grant provides for the Holmes community as well as the Gonzaga and Whitworth communities. These resources will allow us to develop a partnership that leverages expertise, people and services in support of Holmes children while also providing us with new insights on training teachers to work in high need schools,” Traynor said.  “My department and I are excited to have the resources to think differently about how best to train initial teachers, especially to work in the high-need schools.”

Traynor believes this collaboration-based approach to the school improvement process and the training of initial teachers could lead to other partnerships between higher and P-12 education in the region and throughout the country.

“I think the partnership is an especially unique component of this grant. The idea that local universities and the largest school district on this side of the mountains are partnering to improve student learning and development at the elementary school while also improving the training of teachers by the universities is a powerful model,” Traynor said.

Gonzaga School of Education Associate Professor Charles Salina, who recently served as a “turnaround” principal at Sunnyside High School, which has had significant improvements in its graduation rate, is working directly with the Holmes staff and administration to develop systems and procedures in support of the school improvement plan developed by the school.

Located in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood, Holmes serves one of the highest percentages of high-risk and low-achieving students in the school district.

Gonzaga and Whitworth place more pre-service teachers in SPS than any institutions of higher education in the region; together, they placed more than 500 teachers during the 2011-2012 academic year. Both Gonzaga and Whitworth have active mentoring and tutoring programs in Spokane Public Schools as well.

For more information, please contact John Traynor, co-chair of the department of teacher education, at (509) 313-3632 or via email.

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