During BYU’s production of Seussical, Farrer Elementary School students trooped into the Harris Fine Arts Center to see the show, as guests of the McKay School of Education (MSE). In addition to seeing the show, students of Farrer Elementary are frequently invited to campus in order to get a feel for post-secondary education and associate it with positive experiences. “We invite them up here to see what a university is like--to show them ‘look, you can go to college too,’” says Lynnette Christensen.

Dean Richard Young, Dr. Paul Caldarella, and Lynnette Christensen, of MSE’s Positive Behavior Support Initiative (PBSI) and others in the McKay School, have been working closely with principal Alex Judd and his faculty to create a partnership between the two schools. MSE provides access to professional development for Farrer teachers as well access for students to BYU events such as Seussical. In exchange, Farrer Elementary allows MSE faculty to conduct research.

"You can’t make things better for students without improving the teachers in their lives."

This partnership started when Mr. Judd, attending an associates program sponsored jointly by MSE and Provo School District, mentioned difficulties his school was having. “We thought, ‘Well, let’s see if we can establish a partnership,’” says Caldarella, who was also at the meeting. After more discussions, Farrer Elementary and the McKay School began to collaborate.

“We focused on professional development with teachers at the school,” says Caldarella, “You can’t make things better for students without making things better for the teachers in their lives.” The professional development focused on the elements of effective instruction. Other implemented programs included screening children for emotional and behavioral disorders, setting school-wide behavioral expectations, and teaching children social skills.

MSE faculty members worked in small groups and individually with the elementary school teachers, sharing with them ways to reach their students. “When we work closely with teachers, we aren’t experimenting with new techniques,” says Christensen. “We’re using proven principles that we know make a difference if they are consistently implemented well.”

The program is adaptive, with an emphasis on response to needs and use of data. “When a challenge arises, it’s an opportunity for us to help. That’s what the program is all about,” says Christensen.

As the results of the project are compiled, it will be possible to see statistically how much of a difference the partnership has made.

25 July 2011