As part of her national study of teacher education programs, Stanford University education scholar Linda Darling-Hammond identified the University of Southern Maine as one of seven "powerful teacher education" programs in country (Powerful Teacher Education, Jossey-Bass, 2006).
Working with a team of teacher-education scholars, Darling-Hammond selected seven from a long list of schools that "prepare teachers to teach a wide range of students successfully, including those who struggle to learn from their first days."
Darling-Hammond identifies two key themes of USM's Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP) as central to its excellence:
The program has a focus on collaborative inquiry to develop learner-center practice.
It also focuses on authentic, standards-based teaching and learning for both teacher-interns and K12 students, organized around performance assessments.
Darling-Hammond chronicles the 33-credit-hour ETEP year and closes by saying, "at the end of this intense, well-integrated, and carefully focused set of experiences, teachers are clearly ready to teach effectively and reflectively from their first day on the job."
One principal is quoted as saying "they induct quickly in our school culture." Another said "I look to ETEP grads to help change the culture of this school. They have the big picture."
Across the seven programs, Darling-Hammond found two important commonalities-they are "learning-centered" and "learner-centered." Each program has this foundation for how it teaches teachers."
She stated: "Successful teachers link what students already know and understand to new information, correcting misimpressions, guiding learners' understanding., providing opportunities for the application of knowledge, giving useful feedback., and individualizing for students' distinctive learning needs."
She went on to say that the programs highlighted in Powerful Teacher Education are those "whose graduates are sought out by principals and superintendents because they prove consistently capable of creating successful classrooms and helping to lead successful schools, even in circumstances where the deck is traditionally stacked against student success."
Darling-Hammond indicated that the seven highlighted schools develop teachers "who can act on their commitments; who are highly knowledgeable about learning and teaching and who have strong practical skills." She said that teachers from these programs "know how to teach ambitious subject matter to students who learn in different ways" and possess other important characteristics and dispositions.
Darling-Hammond concluded that if our classrooms are to be lead by teachers "who can teach ambitious skills to all learners" then we must consider "strong, universal teacher education." ETEP was held up as a national example of such strong teacher education.