UNI Moves Ahead with Price Lab Closure Transition Plans

By Diane Heldt, Reporter

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — University of Northern Iowa officials hope by May 25 to have recruited and selected 75 to 80 teachers in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo school districts to serve as mentors to UNI teacher-education students, to replace field work that previously happened at Malcolm Price Lab School.

UNI officials on Wednesday gave an update on the Price Lab School closure to the Education and Student Affairs Committee of the state Board of Regents during a meeting in Cedar Falls; the full board will hear the report tomorrow. The board in February approved the lab school's June 30 closure, part of budget cuts recommended by UNI President Ben Allen.

The university has 10 transition teams working on the process, readying for the impacts of the school closure on prekindergarten through 12 students and parents, teachers, staff and UNI education students who conducted field training at the lab school.

Addressing changes to the clinical experiences for UNI students is one of the critical pieces of the plan, Allen and UNI Education Dean Dwight Watson said during the update to the committee. UNI education students move through four levels of field experience. Level two field experience, involving about 600 students annually, was the major component that used the Price Lab School, Watson said. Level two students spend 25 hours in a classroom, typically about one hour per day across four weeks, with a focus on putting teaching theory into practice and teaching two classroom lessons.

"We are looking at ways to make sure we can get all of these experiences within the semester within the Cedar Valley area," he said.

With students now conducting those experiences off campus, time blocks will be created in their class schedules, he said.

In selecting the Cedar Falls and Waterloo district teachers who will serve as mentors or "host teachers" for the level two students, UNI officials also hope by the end of May to have a plan for professional development for those teachers and to develop a curriculum.

"The purpose is to make sure those teachers know exactly what their expectations are when it comes to being mentor teachers," Watson said.

Officials hope each host teacher will mentor four UNI students for each 25-hour block. There will be a financial stipend for those host teachers, though the amount is still being negotiated, Watson said. UNI officials want an "enthusiastic coalition of the willing" with teachers who see the experience as professional giveback, Watson said.

"I don't want them to see this as a chore. I want them to see this as an opportunity," he said.

While Cedar Falls and Waterloo teachers will be the classroom mentors for UNI students, UNI "field-experience faculty" will be based in those schools for student placement and supervision, Watson said. They can support the mentor teachers as well as the UNI students, Watson said.

Price Lab School has 21 tenured UNI faculty, nine probationary teachers and a number of other term faculty who teach at the school. Not all of those people will make the move to field-experience faculty in this new model, Watson said. The new model ideally would use 26 UNI field-experience faculty, but because of budget realities it will more likely be about 20, he said.

UNI is offering a buyout incentive to eligible tenured faculty, and Watson said many eligible education faculty applied for that. The deadline to apply for the buyout agreement is April 30.
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