Each organization is distinctive in some way. Identifying a common purpose might be one way to distinguish an organization from others, but not necessarily. The true culture of an organization is recognizable when its members choose to regulate their actions and efforts consistent with the purpose shared with other members of the organization.
The BYU-Public School Partnership (BYU-PSP) is a partnership with a culture that has been shaped by its values and beliefs. The following values and beliefs have been consistent from the beginnings of the Partnership and have remained consistent over time:
The Constitution of the United States contains a preamble that identifies six purposes or objectives of our government, representing the common good. Citizens hold the government responsible for securing "the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity." Inherent in any democratic form of government is the tension between interests and rights of individuals and the common good. Public virtue has been a necessary quality of people living under such government arrangements, as it has meant that its citizens are willing to set aside certain self-interests in accepting a general public interest. Public virtue is essential in a government that is "for the people" and "by the people."
How are citizens made capable of self-government? How do citizens develop the desire to balance their personal interests with those of the larger society? Education is required. Thomas Jefferson expressed the relationship so clearly when he said, "If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
Schools are natural places for members of the community to learn and practice the skills and dispositions needed for a democratic society. Schools can teach and model what it means to be a civic entity that we call a "public" and how that public can find common ground. Citizens must be educated to their rights and responsibilities if they are to maintain and improve such a society.
FOUNDATIONAL BELIEFS OF THE BYU-PSP
The BYU-Public School Partnership is committed to the continuous improvement of teaching and learning through educational renewal.
WE BELIEVE THAT THE PARTNERSHIP CAN:
- Attend to educational renewal through collaboration, relationships of trust, and shared resources
- Improve the quality of education offered to all students and the preparation and readiness of all educators by working together
- Focus on relationships which are central to building and maintaining our Partnership and achieving our goals
- Implement on-going change which is challenging but necessary and enduring
WE BELIEVE THE PURPOSES OF PUBLIC SCHOOLING ARE TO:
- Develop the academic capacity and intellectual independence of every student
- Prepare students to participate in a democratic way of life
- Provide a foundation for our country's economic stability through career readiness
- Provide all students an engaging, nurturing, safe environment for learning
WE BELIEVE THAT IN THE PROCESS OF EDUCATING OUR YOUTH:
- Education must be a shared responsibility of students, parents, educators, and communities
- Strong relationships between the quality and preparation of teachers and student learning are necessary
- Excellent teachers engage and inspire students to choose to learn
- Students learn best when teachers have strong content knowledge and use appropriate learning theory and sound instructional practices
- All students are capable of learning and we must expect that all will learn
- All students should have the opportunity to maximize their individual potential
- All students deserve an environment that is physically and emotionally safe
- Parental involvement is central to student success
- Time matters
- Skills, dispositions, and habits of intellect necessary for democratic citizenship can be developed
- Public schools are appropriate places to develop democratic citizenry
TEACHING AS A MORAL ENDEAVOR
Teaching involves human interaction. In schools the relationship between teacher and student is central in the learning process. What makes this relationship moral is the possibility that actions taken by the teacher can have meaningful consequences for the student. Teachers can make decisions and as a result act or fail to act in particular ways that affect students in some significant way. All relationships have this moral quality to them.
Teachers and students experience critical relationships. To be effective teachers develop caring connected associations with their students. Every day they make numerous decisions affecting students. Some are insignificant, and others become personally meaningful. Teaching is a moral endeavor for a variety of reasons:
- Significant learning is a function of the quality of the teacher-student relationship.
- The relationship of teacher to student (adult to child) in inherently unequal.
- Teachers nurture students and must participate as co-partners in the learning enterprise.
- To benefit students teachers feel responsible to know and understand their disciplines and want to connect ideas and content to support learning.
- Teachers press for rigor and effort.
- Respect must be shown for all ideas.
- How teachers act demonstrates how students are expected to treat each other.
- Teachers are models of acceptable behavior.
- Teachers must have a desire to become involved with others.
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT & LEARNING
The Partnership is committed to getting better at what it does. The mission and commitments of the Partnership establish its standards and create its expectations for success. Because of its unifying purpose, the Partnership can focus energy and resources on instruction, curriculum, assessment, professional development, and leadership in support of student learning.
One way the Partnership builds skills and capacity for improvement is through their ongoing professional development programs. Partnership programs designed to reach everyone from senior leaders to newly hired teachers are made available to all school districts and to the university.
Professional learning communities (PLCs), for example, operate within schools and allow teachers and administrators to participate in sustained collaboration to ensure that all students are learning. Efforts are made to improve educators' understanding of learning processes, child development, curriculum, assessment, cultural contexts, and subject specific teaching methods. Through this process educators identify needed improvements and work to create better results. PLCs emphasize action, experimentation, data-based decision making, and assessments of results so that the learning is continuous and all are benefitted by the effort.
The Partnership culture is designed to build the collective capacity of the districts and the university in helping all students learn.
RELATIONSHIPS BASED ON TRUST & RESPECT
HISTORIC EXAMPLE 1: Formulating the Partnership, Relationship of Equals Built on Respect
In 1984 the BYU faculty and administration were concerned about the status of teacher and administrator preparation programs in the college and about requests from the central administration to increase scholarly productivity while focusing on ways to improve the public schools. A consultant was asked to meet with representatives of the public schools to discuss their needs for reform and to determine their interest in working with the BYU College of Education. After several such discussions, a set of common interests shared by the university and the public schools were identified which could serve as a basis for cooperation. Both the university and the school districts were viewed as having legitimate interests and were treated with respect. The basis for a partnership of equals was developed.
HISTORIC EXAMPLE 2:
Dan Anderson, former dean of the College of Education, recounts the level of trust and respect that forms the basis for decision making and consensus.
Following a meeting in which the self-interests of both the college and public schools were identified, the first meeting of the new school-university partnership was scheduled. The dean of the college looked forward to the meeting with the district superintendents, anticipating that the partners would first attend to organizational matters and the structure of the Partnership. It took only a few minutes to take care of the usual pleasantries and to choose the Partnership's first chair. That concluded the organizational business. There followed, in quick succession, the establishment of two task forces, one to review the college's teacher education program and the other to look at administrator preparation. This action by the partners took me by surprise and made it clear that the public schools had a substantial interest in what the college was doing and wanted to join with college faculty in looking at preparation programs (Personal Communications, November 5, 2004).
Key Initiatives: How does the Partnership Achieve Its Purpose
The Partnership does not attempt to control through mandates, legislation, or use of authority. It is a relationship of equals who seek input and consensus in decision makin g and resource allocation. The Partnership represents a community of educators committ ed to collaboration. Participants realize that collaboration demands conversation, time, and a dedication to common purposes. The work of the Partnership is greatly facilitated by the creation, support, and evaluation of the following:
- Educator Preparation Program Executive Committee
- University Council on Teacher Education (UCOTE)
- Professional Development Coordinating Council (PDCC)
- Partnership Advisory Councils (PACs)
- Secondary Education Committee (SEC)
- BYU A.R.T.S. Partnership
- Positive Behavior Support Initiative
- Access to Knowledge Initiative
- Mathematics Initiative
- Associates Program
- Leaders Associates Program
- Principals ' Academy
- Secondary Literacy Institute
- Utah Reading Endorsements
- Gifted & Talented Endorsements
- ELL Symposium
- Contributions of financial, personnel, and use of property come from all participating partners.
Photos by Dim Hou, Cytonn Photography, Element5 Digital, Kuanish Reymbaev and Brett Jordan on Unsplash