The Bradley PDS Partnership has promoted academic and professional development for students, pre-professionals, practitioners and professors since 1995.
School-university partnerships provide authentic learning experiences for college students while also serving the community. First conceptualized in the mid-1980s as ongoing, collaborative relationships between elementary, middle or high schools and neighboring colleges or universities, the term school-university partnerships narrowed to professional development schools (PDS) in the 2000s as national focus shifted to teacher preparation, faculty development, instructional improvement and student achievement.
Foundation of the Bradley PDS Partnership
Bradley University’s College of Education and Health Sciences has historically embraced a broader approach to its PDS relationships, which have involved 10 different schools in Peoria and Tazewell counties over the past 21 years. Since 1995, the college has embraced an integrated, “whole child” PDS approach through ongoing relationships with partner schools that engage all five of its academic departments—Family and Consumer Sciences; Leadership in Education, Nonprofits and Counseling; Nursing; Physical Therapy and Health Science; and Teacher Education—in efforts designed to support student learning, health and well-being, as well as to prepare aspiring professionals in education and the health sciences.
The Bradley PDS Partnership, as the project is now called, owes its longevity and success to the William T. Kemper Foundation, which has generously funded the project since its inception. The first Kemper grant proposal, written in May 1995, requested funding for five years to support a fellowship for teaching excellence that would provide mentoring, research, study and “collaboration with area school districts as well as healthcare and social service organizations.” The proposal envisioned a “comprehensive services model for providing services to school children, particularly at-risk children” where “the school building becomes a center for student and family services designed to ensure the success and development of children.” In addition to facilitating university-school-community collaborations, the college envisioned that the Kemper Fellow would be responsible for researching and assessing outstanding teaching practices, delivering professional development, and providing one-on-one and small group mentoring for college faculty.
Bradley’s first Kemper grant was awarded that November, and the following month, Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin was named the first William T. Kemper Fellow for Teaching Excellence. “Being selected the very first Kemper Fellow was a challenging responsibility,” recalls Dr. Russell-Chapin, now associate dean for the college. “It was the Kemper Fellow’s job to create policies and design the first Kemper brochure to be sent out to schools that might be interested in applying to become a Bradley Professional Development School.”
Site Selection and Coordination
During the spring and fall semesters of 1996, a college-wide committee was convened to articulate selection criteria and choose Bradley’s first PDS sites. The call for PDS proposals was mailed to area schools that November, and several schools responded. In 1997, Georgetowne Middle School in Marquette Heights and Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Learning Center in Peoria were the first two schools to be named Bradley PDS sites. In 1998, C.B. Smith Elementary School in Pekin and Manual High School in Peoria were added, and Roosevelt Magnet School was named Bradley’s fifth PDS site in 1999.
As the Bradley PDS sites were selected, college faculty were encouraged to apply for positions as Kemper school designees, later termed PDS site coordinators. In exchange for a reduction in teaching load, PDS site coordinators were responsible for spending 45 to 60 hours per semester at the partner school engaging in activities such as on-site professional development, mentoring beginning teachers, and collaborating in research, curriculum development and grant writing. “Our main goal during those early years,” explains Dr. Russell-Chapin, “was to go into the schools and find out what they needed.”
Janet Jackson, then-assistant professor of nursing, served as the PDS site coordinator for Georgetowne Middle School from 1998 to 2002. PDS projects implemented at Georgetowne during those years included the co-writing of a grant used to create a professional library for teachers, workshops on environmental safety and coping with student conflict, and the creation of a seventh-grade curriculum about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Now assistant dean for the college, Professor Jackson reflects, “Through our PDS collaborations, our college was able to impact the professional development of area school teachers and improve the education and health of their students.”
A Comprehensive, Integrated Model
From the beginning, the Kemper project focused on an integrated, whole child PDS approach. During 1996 and 1997, Drs. Russell-Chapin and Rosalyn Templeton, associate professor of teacher education and later the second Kemper Fellow, led a team in the development of a visual model to describe and guide the college’s PDS work. Based on ideas outlined in the original Kemper grant proposal, the resulting Comprehensive Integrated Services Model—still used by the Bradley PDS Partnership today—collaboratively engages professionals in education and the health sciences through support and service opportunities with partner schools to address students’ physical and social-emotional health, as well as their academic needs. The model is comprehensive because it addresses a wide range of student, teacher and school needs; it is integrated because it combines the academic programs and faculty expertise in the college with scholarly practices, partner school goals and community resources.
The Kemper Teaching Academy, founded in February 1997 as a way for college faculty to gather twice a month for lunch and informal sharing of teaching strategies, was restructured in October 1997 to support four interdisciplinary project teams aimed at conducting research or creating a resource to support one or more Bradley PDS sites or enhance teaching and learning within the college. The work of each team—which addressed at-risk students, professional teaching standards, collaboration with graduate assistants and support for new college faculty—successfully actualized the college’s Comprehensive Integrated Services Model.
The College of Education and Health Science’s strong commitment to this model led to Professor Jackson’s appointment as health coordinator for all five Bradley PDS sites in 2002. In this role, she was able to organize numerous health-related services for the students and teachers at Bradley’s PDS sites, in addition to the academic support and professional development provided by PDS site coordinators. For example, senior nursing students conducted health screenings, promoted healthy lifestyles and provided basic healthcare services; counseling interns provided individual and small group counseling for students and classroom consultations for teachers; and physical therapy students assisted with physical education classes at various grade levels. The Kemper Health Coordinator position further strengthened the college’s commitment to an integrated, whole child PDS approach. “Being a health professional, I brought a different voice to the table,” explains Professor Jackson, who also served as the sixth Kemper Fellow, following Drs. Therese Kiley, Robert Wolffe and Helja Robinson. “These efforts addressed the health needs of the schools while also providing valuable learning opportunities to university students.”
The Next Level
Over time, Bradley’s PDS relationships with Georgetowne and C.B. Smith came to an end, while five new partner schools were added. In 2006 and 2008, Whittier Primary School and St. Mark Catholic School—both within walking distance of Bradley’s campus—became Bradley PDS sites; in 2012, Glen Oak Community Learning Center, Harrison Community Learning Center and Trewyn K-8 School joined the Bradley PDS Partnership. Today, Bradley’s College of Education and Health Sciences enjoys such relationships with eight Peoria schools.
The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation continues to promote professional development schools as “central to [teacher] preparation so that candidates develop the knowledge, skills and professional dispositions necessary to demonstrate positive impact on all P-12 students’ learning and development.” Since 1995, Bradley University’s College of Education and Health Sciences has taken this position to the next level.
“Helping to establish the PDS concept… became one of the cornerstones of our college’s vision, mission and core values to this day,” notes Dr. Russell-Chapin. Indeed, Bradley’s College of Education and Health Sciences will continue to embrace an integrated, whole child approach as the Bradley PDS Partnership moves forward. iBi
Dr. Jana L. Hunzicker is an associate professor in Bradley University’s Department of Teacher Education and current William T. Kemper Fellow for Teaching Excellence. Dr. Joan L. Sattler is Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bradley University.