Columbia College and Columbia Public Schools partner for professional development

Partnership puts college's teacher education students in classrooms, gives public school student teachers free tuition and more.

In late July, Dr. Chris Belcher, Columbia School District superintendent, and Dr. Gerald Brouder, Columbia College president, signed an agreement partnering Columbia public schools and the college.

Under the agreement, Columbia College teacher education students would be placed in Benton, Grant, Midway Heights and Russell elementary, Gentry and Smithton middle and West Junior High school classrooms to both teach and learn; and Columbia College will waive tuition for one graduate course for qualifying Columbia Public Schools faculty.

Left to right: Dr. Terry Smith, Dr. Gerald Brouder, Dr. Mary A. Laffey and Dr. Chris Belcher

Under the agreement, Columbia College would provide:
  • A tuition waiver. Columbia College will waive tuition for one education graduate course for Columbia Public Schools teachers who work with Columbia College students in the classroom.
  • Substitute teachers. Eligible Columbia College students, as determined by Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regulations, can substitute teach in the classroom for five days or less.
Columbia Public Schools would provide:
  • Assessment. Qualified teachers or other administrators would assess the performance of a Columbia College student teacher in the classroom.
  • Onsite education classes. Columbia Public Schools would allow periodic Columbia College class visits to observe best practices, special events and other programs.
Both parties also would collaborate on an after-school program. Columbia College students will work two to three days a week in the after-school program emphasizing communication arts, math and science. The program's curriculum will be agreed upon by principals in Columbia Public Schools and Columbia College.

Columbia College students and Columbia Public Schools faculty would also continually learn best practices from each other and be given the opportunity to implement and assess these practices. In such a partnership, both parties become learners.

"Columbia College is an institution that honors and participates in high quality education at all levels in the community," said Brouder. "So it is truly a pleasure to partner with Columbia Public Schools to certify our teacher education students, and to place those students for practicum experiences in Columbia Public Schools. This new avenue will benefit both the public schools and its teachers, and Columbia College students," said Brouder.

"I think what makes Columbia such a special place is the depth of educational resources we have here," said Belcher. "And partnering with Columbia College is another way to take advantage of that pool and give back to our students. Columbia College's flexibility will allow our teachers to get what they want," said Belcher, singling out the Online Campus. "Columbia College is one of the leading experts in the nation in online course development, and our teachers will take advantage of that. Or, if our teachers want to take in-seat classes, they can almost literally step out their back door. It’s convenient."

Columbia Public Schools and Columbia College also will jointly produce an annual report on the partnership; and the parties, led by Columbia Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Mary Laffey and Columbia College Executive Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Terry Smith, meet twice a year to review the partnership.

"Both Columbia Public Schools and the college will tap into each other’s expertise to strengthen their respective programs, ultimately to benefit students and teachers of all ages," Smith said. "It's a unique opportunity for Columbia College and for Columbia Public Schools to cement our already strong relationship. The implementation of this partnership, and increased access for both parties, will benefit both tremendously. It’s a great arrangement, a true win-win. Columbia College students will now have an exciting new doorway to student excellence in an elementary, middle or junior high school setting that exposes them to the traditions and practices of good teaching."

Columbia College has a long history of involvement with Columbia Public Schools. The college has been a partner in education with Field Elementary School for 22 years, supplying the school with textbooks, pen pals, ice cream socials and basketball games, among other things.