SUNY Oswego Wins $1.73M Grant for Trailblazing Teacher Training Program

OSWEGO — The SUNY Oswego School of Education will establish an innovative teacher training pilot program in nine high-need secondary schools in Oswego County, Syracuse and New York City, thanks to a $1.73 million grant.

The state Education Department, with federal Race to the Top funding, funded SUNY Oswego’s three-year, graduate-level proposal to raise the bar on traditional “student teaching” to encompass two school placements totaling an academic year, as well as summer residencies with two community organizations and a variety of other degree requirements.

“I think it (the grant) is going to allow Oswego to take a leadership role in these sorts of teacher-residency programs,” said Dr. Lorrie Clemo, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs. “One of the reasons this money is so important is that it will enable us to reconstitute the teacher-preparation model for high-need schools.”

Partner schools in Oswego County are Paul V. Moore High School in Central Square and Kenney Middle School in Hannibal. In Syracuse, partners are Fowler High School and Grant Middle School. Five secondary schools in Bronx and East Harlem also will participate, along with community organizations near each of the nine partner schools.

“The idea is the graduate students are immersed in the life of the school and its students,” Clemo said.

The pilot program leading to a master of arts in teaching degree will provide the students — many from the communities in which they’ll train — the opportunity for dual state certification in secondary special education and either a STEM discipline (science, technology, engineering or math) or TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages).

Candidates’ undergraduate degrees must be in math, a science or linguistics. Full scholarships and living stipends are aimed at encouraging midcareer professionals in other occupations to apply for the highly competitive pilot-program openings — 16 each in 2012 and 2013.

Critical need

Project leader Dr. Barbara Garii, associate dean of education, said the new program would help point the way to addressing a shortage in high-need secondary schools for teachers specializing in special education, languages, sciences and math.

“We saw an opportunity to add special education with secondary education in science and math and TESOL,” Garii said. “If we combined secondary education with the special education, then we saw that students who come through our program could walk into schools — in Syracuse, in Oswego County, in New York City — with really solid grounding that would enable them to support students across boundaries.”

Clemo pointed to successful urban residency programs for teacher training the past decade in Chicago, Boston and Denver but emphasized that Oswego will extend the concept to include rural schools.

“We’re aiming to take a model of urban teacher training and improve on it,” she said. “Introducing the apprentice teachers to the lives the younger students are leading is only going to make the experience richer for the graduate students. They’ll be more aware of life beyond the school walls.”

Rigorous training

Among other courses and requirements, the graduate students will have two academic placements — a high school and a middle school for half a school year each — and assignments consecutive summers in area organizations serving schoolchildren.

Partner organizations in each locality will be of two types: ones that work with children in structured but less formal settings, such as the YMCA, and ones that have on-site school and education services, as would a hospital or juvenile justice center.

Beyond placements are coursework and collaboration using software for live online, interactive meetings of graduate students, faculty and mentors in the three regions, allowing for a rich sharing of rural and urban, professional and apprentice experiences and capabilities.

Clemo said retaining the graduates of this program as teachers in their communities is a key goal. Project leaders will follow up systematically with new teachers on the job.

“We have a job to do to demonstrate success of this program,” she said. “I truly believe our students will be successful, because they will hit the ground running when they come out of this program and will have the ongoing support of their network.”