When classes begin at five struggling New York City schools next fall, pupils will find a new set of advocates in their corner—Graduate School of Education students and professors.
Thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the New York State Education Department, GSE will participate in a new initiative called the Graduate Level Clinically Rich Teacher Preparation Pilot Program.
Twenty-four GSE students will begin receiving instruction from Fordham faculty members beginning next May. That fall, the graduate students will do their coursework in underperforming city schools under the guidance of mentor-teachers.
A second cohort of 24 graduate students will join the program the following year.
James Hennessy, Ph.D., dean of GSE, said the grant drew interest from 38 educational institutions, but was awarded to only to 11 institutions. Hennessy noted that GSE’s success in joining the program reflects changes it is making to teacher education.
“It’s changing the way we do teacher preparation,” Hennessy said. “It’s a direction that our faculty has been working toward, and the grant will enable us to bring that work forward. So it’s significant.”
The schools in which GSE students will be working must be from a list of low-performing schools with high populations of minority students. In total, GSE maintains partnerships with 25 schools around the city.
“For a lot of folks who submitted applications, getting partnership agreements with schools on the list was not an easy task,” Hennessy said. “Ours was made a little bit easier because we already had relationships with them.”
While there always has been an element of student teaching at GSE, this will flip the graduate students’ time from roughly 70 percent on campus and 30 percent teaching in actual classrooms to a 40/60 percent split, respectively, said Marshall George, Ed.D., associate professor of English and literacy education and associate chair of the Division of Curriculum and Teaching.
“One of the reasons we were so successful in the grant proposal is that we were already moving in this direction,” George said. “We had piloted a version of this with Van Guard High School on the East Side, and now we’re in year two of that pilot.”
How needy are the schools in question? In the months since Fordham applied for the grant, two of the five schools GSE had planned to teach in have been shuttered by the Department of Education for their low performance.
“As a Jesuit university, part of our mission is to improve education, so we’ve been preparing teachers to go into these types of schools,” he said.
The search for replacement schools is underway. The other three schools GSE is working with are Discovery High School 549, Joseph H. Wade Intermediate School 117 and Angelo Patri Middle School 391—all in the Bronx.
“By doing this in very high-need, low-performing schools, we’re taking a risk that we’re going to be able to provide high-quality instruction sufficient that those schools eventually will become better-performing schools,” Hennessy said.
“The faculty had been preparing for this kind of change in our regular teacher program, so we weren’t surprised by it,” he continued. “This encouraged us to speed up the process. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. It’s the kind of challenge we want to have.”