by Dr. Steve Shirley, Valley City State University President.
The following article will appear in the Valley City Times Record the week of April 15, 2013.
During the past four years, the faculty and staff within VCSU's School of Education and Graduate Studies (SEGS) have been actively working with colleagues at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) on a major teacher education grant.
The grant, in excess of $5.5 million, was announced in December 2009 and is provided through the Bush Foundation of St. Paul, Minnesota. VCSU and NDSU were the only two institutions from North Dakota selected to participate in this grant; a total of 14 colleges and universities from the tri-state area (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota) are participating in these efforts. The overall program encompassing the 14 schools is called the Network for Excellence in Teaching (NExT), and more information can be found at www.nextprogram.org
VCSU, NDSU, and MSUM have teamed up through the NExT effort to form the "Valley Partnership" consortium. Last week, representatives from the Bush Foundation were in Fargo, Moorhead, and Valley City to review the grant activities. During their visit to the VCSU campus for this annual evaluation on the progress of the grant, they met with many of our faculty, staff, and students involved in the project. During my review with the evaluators, they commented about how impressed they have been with the progress and efforts of Valley City State University. They were extremely complimentary of VCSU's activities, and spoke repeatedly about the excellence and high-quality teacher education academic programs at VCSU.
The focus of this NExT grant from the Bush Foundation is on the transformation of teacher education programs at the 14 participating colleges and universities. New initiatives and developments with the recruitment, preparation, placement, mentoring, and support for new elementary and secondary teachers being educated at VCSU has been a key component of these efforts. Since we know high-quality teachers are perhaps the single most important factor leading to improved student achievement, the NExT grant projects are squarely focused on enhancing teacher effectiveness.
VCSU's Education faculty and staff have worked tirelessly the past four years in implementing a number of new and innovative components supported by the NExT grant. These efforts are having direct results in supporting the learning environment for our teacher education students. These graduates are the future teachers in our schools and communities, and so the outcomes of this project are incredibly important.
With VCSU's long-standing tradition and history of excellence with teacher education, it was especially heartening to hear the positive comments from the Bush Foundation external evaluators who were on campus last week. It certainly reinforces what we already know about VCSU--we offer a world-class teacher education program!