December 18, 2001
Starlight Elementary receives national award for teacher programs
Award to be presented Dec. 19 at the Improving America's Schools Conference in San Antonio
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WATSONVILLE, CA--When the U.S. Department of Education gave Starlight Elementary School top marks for its teacher development programs, principal Noni Mendoza Reis couldn't wait to share the news.
"This award honors the Starlight professional community and our partners at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District," said Mendoza Reis. "We share a strong commitment to providing effective education for underserved children."
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige recently named Starlight a winner of the U.S. Department of Education's National Awards Program for Professional Development for its outstanding teacher development programs. The award winners will be recognized Dec. 19 in San Antonio, Texas, at the department's Improving America's Schools Conference.
"We need high-quality teachers in every classroom if we are going to offer every child in this country a high-quality education," said Paige. "The programs being honored demonstrate how well trained teachers will help to ensure that no child is left behind."
Starlight Elementary, located in southern Santa Cruz County, became a "professional development school" (PDS) in partnership with UCSC in 1994. At Starlight, administrators and staff are committed to the development of thoughtful teachers whose practice is responsive to the diverse cultural, social, and linguistic backgrounds of all students. Teachers continually assess and revise their practices and theoretical orientations in order to advance equity and student achievement.
"Starlight is a model school for teachers because it provides the ongoing support that's necessary for long-term success," said Ellen Moir, director of the UC Santa Cruz New Teacher Center, who has worked with Mendoza Reis since the school's inception to build a seamless flow of support from pre-service to beginning instructor to veteran teacher. "The collaboration and mentoring that takes place among Starlight's teachers sets the standard for all schools."
Irene McGinty coordinates professional development activities at Starlight, serving UCSC student teachers as well as beginning and veteran teachers. "Professional development creates a community of leaders and learners that works together to advance teacher practice in order to close the equity gap in student academic achievement and leadership," she said.
Starlight offers a multifaceted professional development program. Teachers at every stage of their careers are encouraged to participate in weekly enrichment activities, to collaborate with one another, and to utilize cutting-edge educational research. The program includes on-site peer coaching and consultation, as well as facilitation of collegial partnerships and research.
UCSC support and a Title VII grant enable every Starlight teacher to spend one afternoon every three weeks working outside the classroom with peers at his or her grade level. In these meetings, teachers assess student achievement, share effective teaching practices, and develop curriculum. The entire staff gathers three times a year for focused daylong enrichment programs.
In addition to advancing the development of the professional community at Starlight, the UCSC/Starlight partnership also benefits the university. UCSC students, including many in the teacher-credentialing program, gain valuable classroom experience at Starlight each year. Many UCSC graduates have become full-time teachers at the school, as well.
"The professional development model enhances what we do by giving us immediate feedback on our teacher education program," said Joyce Justus, chair of the UCSC Education Department. "It gives us a direct link so we know what new needs are emerging in the schools. It is that back-and-forth interaction that makes all the difference."
The roots of the partnership go back to Roland Tharp, former chair of the UCSC Education Department and current director of the UCSC-based Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE). Tharp saw the need for a "living laboratory" that would build on the student-teaching placements at the core of the UCSC teacher credential program.
Starlight is one of two schools and three school districts that were honored by the U.S. Department of Education. Other recipients were Ridge Meadow Elementary School in Ellisville, Mo.; North Nodaway in Pickering, Mo.; North Kansas City School District in Kansas City, Mo.; and Mesquite Independent School District in Mesquite, Texas.
For more information about Starlight and its partners, visit http://www.starlight.santacruz.k12.ca.us.
For more information about the National Awards Program for Model Professional Development, visit http://www.ed.gov/inits/TeachersWeb/.