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Project Title:Meeting Unique Needs of an Urban School District through a University-School PartnershipInstitution Name:University of Nebraska at Omaha Innovation Category:Teacher Education Project Director:Abby J. Burke , Project Coordinator and Teacher Education FacultyContact Information:(402) 554.2825 , ajburke@unomaha.eduWebsite:
Project Description:The partnership is a grant-funded effort by the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) and Omaha Public Schools (OPS) to provide a Master’s in Reading degree tailored to OPS’s instructional framework with the goal of meeting students’ unique needs in the urban school environment. A blend of UNO faculty and OPS staff deliver the instruction to the teachers. This “theory into practice” collaborative project implements evidence-based strategies proven to increase PK-12 student literacy performance across content areas, as well as to expand the pool of knowledgeable literacy leaders to support students and other OPS teachers in their daily work.
Objectives:
  • Provide opportunities for four cohorts of teachers over a period of five years (280 teachers) to earn graduate degrees or endorsements in literacy from the University of Nebraska Omaha.
  • Design and implement a program of study that enhances teachers’ professional knowledge for working within the context of OPS’s diverse population of students.
  • Transfer literacy learning in the OPS/UNO Career Ladder courses collaboratively to other OPS colleagues through professional development that is facilitated by the teachers from the project.
Outcomes:
  • All participants will earn a master’s degree in reading or an endorsement in reading.
  • All participants will plan and facilitate 3 hours per month of professional development, beginning during the spring semester of the first year and continuing for three years after completion of degree.
  • There will be changes in teachers’ knowledge, practices and attitudes of literacy across the curriculum.
  • There will be increases in teachers’ and their colleagues’ ability to strategically integrate strategies as identified by the OPSs’ instructional framework and best practices within and across curricula. 
Challenges/Problems Encountered:The intent of creating a critical mass of classroom teachers from targeted locations has been a challenge of the project. There is a need to identify barriers for achieving this goal in order to refine the participant recruitment and selection process. Establishing time and space for key stakeholders from UNO, OPS, the external evaluator, and project funders to collaborate on a regular basis is critical to implementing a shared vision and purpose for the project. Collaborative meetings have assisted the partnership in addressing logistical issues, as well as institutional differences.
Evaluation Approach:The grant funders hired an external evaluator for the project to document the development and implementation of various aspects of the project. Changes in participants’ knowledge, practices and attitudes will be measured. The sharing of knowledge and practices with other colleagues whom are not participants in the project will also be an important outcome in determining the success of the project.
Potential for Replication:University-school district partnerships have great potential to impact teacher development leading to increased student learning. This innovative partnership requires that key stakeholders work closely during the development and throughout the implementation of the project to ensure that collaboration is mutually beneficial while working toward a shared purpose and vision.
Additional Resources:

Nancy Edick, Dean, College of Education, University of Nebraska at Omaha  (402) 554-2719(402) 554-2719    nedick@unomaha.edu

CEO-to-CEO Contact:John Christensen , Chancellorjohnchristensen@mail.unomaha.edu
(402) 554-2312
Date Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014