The Literacy Education Professional Development School (LEPDS) integrates cohorts of undergraduate Elementary Education students with Literacy Education minors into the daily ongoing work of elementary schools. Schools selected as LEPDS sites typically have significant cultural, ethnic, economic, and linguistic diversity. The undergraduates complete portions of their education coursework focused on literacy teaching and learning at the selected schools over the course of a year-long two-semester experience. UNI professors accompany the students to the school, where they teach the courses and collaborate with the teachers at the school in providing field experiences. This model allows student experiences that are intensive, extensive, and closely linked to their studies. The ultimate goal of this project is to expand the learning of all involved parties. More specifically, the objectives are:
- to raise the literacy achievement levels for children in the participating schools;
- to improve the quality of preparation for UNI Elementary Education majors with Literacy Education minors, especially in regards to their cultural competence; and
- to contribute to the professional development of faculty members at LEPDS school sites and UNI faculty members.
The LEPDS was initially funded by a Schindler Endowment grant from the University of Northern Iowa and implemented during the 2008-2009 academic year at Lincoln Elementary School in Waterloo, Iowa. When the Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy began operations in 2011, the LEPDS was included as one of its programs, along with the Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy and Reading Recovery Center of Iowa. During the 2014-2015 academic year, the LEPDS was expanded to include Becker Elementary in Waterloo, and was also integrated with UNI’s Year-Long Student Teaching Project.