The University of Akron's College of Education has been selected to receive a $25,000 contribution from AT&T to support a program designed to reduce the number of high school dropouts. The program, known as "America's Unseen Kids: The University of Akron/Barberton Teacher Education Collaboration Project," allows pre-service teachers in the College of Education to work one-on-one with academically challenged students for a full semester. The AT&T contribution was announced at Wednesday's meeting of the Barberton City Schools' Board of Education.
As part of the project, professors Hal Foster and Brad Maguth embed UA College of Education classes in Barberton High School, the second most financially strapped school district in the state to be named "Excellent," to make a difference in the lives of academically challenged high school students. College of Education pre-service teachers work directly with the Barberton students for the entire semester. This type of mentoring, the professors say, is a step toward helping to shape and reform education as we know it.
"The UA professors hold their classes at our high school, then go into our classrooms and work directly with our teachers and students," says Barberton City Schools Superintendent Patti Cleary. "This model is extremely innovative and productive for the teachers-in-training and also for our Barberton High School students. It's a win-win situation that provides resources and innovation for both the College of Education and the Barberton City Schools."
"This 'lived-in' model of teacher preparation moves instruction out of the artificial confines of a university classroom and into the real, often unpredictable realm of the school classroom and hallway," says Maguth. "Through this authentic learning opportunity teacher candidates learn the value of flexibility, strong planning, classroom management and teamwork."
The teacher candidates and their instructors work across content areas (10th-grade social studies and 10th- and 11th-grade English language arts) and mentor between 60 and 75 at-risk high school students, and implement academically rigorous, relevant and interdisciplinary instructional units under the supervision of the University instructors and the Barberton classroom teachers. This helps academically vulnerable high school students achieve academic success, and it also helps train future teachers for work in classrooms with the most challenging high school students.
University professors, using the AT&T contribution, will expand their current project to include the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines, as STEM education is a pressing need among high school students in order to graduate. This new funding will allow the project directors to achieve this goal by organizing math and science university curriculums for tutors and mentors at Barberton in the fall of 2013.
"Keeping our teenagers in high school and preparing them for success after graduation benefits our students and our communities," says Steve Kristan, director of external affairs for AT&T Ohio. "This cooperative project between The University of Akron and the Barberton City Schools helps students succeed academically and graduate prepared for success in higher education. We are proud to support this program."
To report on the outcomes of this inventive project, the Summit Education Initiative has begun research to determine the program's effectiveness on high school students and in teacher preparation. SEI joined the Barberton project in 2012 to track the progress being made on the project, conduct research and publicize relevant data and findings.
In all, the Barberton project provides benefits for both the school district and UA. There is no additional cost to the participating high school or to UA to conduct the classes, it fulfills criteria for the College of Education to continue to be nationally accredited, it allows UA students real-life teaching experience before they begin their formal student teaching experiences, and most importantly, the project shows the high school students that they are capable of achieving.
"I am so honored and pleased AT&T recognized our project," says Foster. "As a result, we may be able to replicate what we do in many schools and we certainly will be able to enhance the opportunities for our vulnerable high school students. Generous acts like this grant really do improve the world, in this case the world of education, in much need of help.”
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