The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) selected Ball State University as one of two runner-ups for the AACTE/SPLC Award for Exemplary Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparation. This is a one-time award to identify exemplary teacher preparation programs that use research on culturally responsive pedagogy in powerful learning experiences for teacher candidates.

Ball State was selected for its Schools Within the Context of Community (SCC) immersive learning program in the Department of Elementary Education. SCC was recognized during AACTE's 64th Annual Meeting for its flexibility to be used in many educator preparation programs, regardless of content focus.

This program is a joint venture among the departments of elementary education (Pat Clark, Eva Zygmunt-Fillwalk, Susan Tancock) educational psychology (Winnie Mucherah) and educational studies (Jon Clausen).

The purpose of SCC, which began in 2009, is to provide a new approach to preparing early childhood and elementary school teachers – an approach that introduces future teachers to the complex interplay of factors that influence children’s learning and which prepares them to use that knowledge to implement culturally relevant pedagogical practices.

The effectiveness of the program was quickly realized, and the impact – on the community as well as on the teacher candidates – has gone far beyond initial plans. Community members and school personnel have credited the program with improving university-community relations and enhancing the learning of children who attend the neighborhood school.

The program has become institutionalized and is now an integral part of the offerings of the Department of Elementary Education. While the program has served 15 to 20 teacher candidates per year over the past two and a half years, the department is in the planning process to expand the impact of the program in other schools and neighborhoods so that more teacher candidates can be involved in similar programs.