The Kansas State Department of Education has achieved a number of noteworthy accomplishments supported through the Kansas State Improvement Grant (SIG). A majority of these achievements and successes have been focused professional development and teacher training programs. Specifically the goal of the SIG focusing on early childhood has produced an important and productive collaborative working relationship with the faculty of Kansas colleges and universities.
The ECHO project is focusing on systems change that will result in a redesigned approach to teacher training, personnel development, and recruitment and retention of quality teachers, while focusing on outcomes to support all children in Kansas schools being successful learners. The impetus for these changes are a direct result of a number of issues and forces that have converged that create the atmosphere and opportunity for further systems change in early childhood teacher training programs. These forces, coming together as a whole, have set the stage for focus on quality preservice and inservice training for teachers of our youngest children. These forces include:
- The State Board of Education’s goals and vision for the future.
- A number of statewide initiatives in early childhood.
- Teacher licensure redesign in the state of Kansas.
In response to these factors, through the activities/strategies and input/resources of the ECHO project, systems change in teacher training is to be accomplished at three levels: (a) at the course level through the unification of regular and special education content into new courses, (b) at the college/university level though curriculum redesign which will prepare students to meet the new teaching standards and support collaboration between early childhood teacher trainers and early elementary education teacher trainers, and (c) at the state level through a distance education consortium to allow students to access courses at any and all participating colleges or universities.
Currently, subgrants from this project have been provided to a number of state colleges and universities to begin the redesign of courses and course sequences to meet the new unified, birth through age 8, early childhood license. Over the course of the next year it is anticipated that that replication of the Dean’s Council Model will be initiated to support shared courses across colleges and universities.