Campus: Long Beach -- March 7, 2006

Cal State Long Beach Among 3 Campuses in Nation to Receive $50,000 NCTAF/MetLife Grant

California State University, Long Beach has been selected as one of three campuses in the United States to receive a $50,000 planning grant from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), with support from the MetLife Foundation, to establish an Urban Teaching Academy (UTA) at the university.

Former Secretary of Education and NCTAF Co-Chair Richard Riley announced the awards on Tuesday, March 7 at a public forum at the Charles Sumner School in Washington, D.C. The two other institutions receiving the planning grant were the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago and Montclair State University in New Jersey.

The UTA grant is designed to recognize, publicize and support the work of excellent urban teaching academies in an effort to improve the effective preparation and transition of new teachers into urban schools.

Cal State Long Beach and the two other institutions were recognized for existing programs that successfully prepare quality teachers to staff high-need urban schools. These programs, which will now be known as “NCTAF-MetLife Foundation Urban Teaching Academies,” were singled out because they represent a promising approach to developing and retaining high quality teachers through the melding of preparation and school design.

The program recognized at Cal State Long Beach is the school-based master’s program under the direction of Linda Symcox and Felipe Golez, both faculty members in the Teacher Education Department.

“This NCTAF/MetLife Foundation grant will be used to develop our successful teacher-professional development program into a fully articulated ‘teaching hospital’ that will provide on-site training and field experiences for teachers of all levels of pre-and in-service training,” said Symcox, who is also the coordinator of the curriculum and instruction master’s program. “The grant will lay the groundwork for developing a comprehensive UTA design.”

Over the past four years, Symcox and Golez have guided six cohorts through the on-site master’s degree program at several local schools, including Bret Harte Elementary School, Gompers Elementary, Grant Elementary – all in the Long Beach Unified School District – and Niemes Elementary, which is in the ABC Unified School District.

“These cohorts are very successful,” Symcox pointed out. “We’re on our third cohort at Bret Harte Elementary School, and by the end of this spring semester, 45 out of the 62 teachers there will have their master’s degree from us. That is amazing for an urban school. Where they say teachers aren’t highly qualified, these teachers are more than highly qualified.”

“The ‘on-site’ aspects of these programs is what we believe makes these programs so special,” she continued. “By delivering these programs on-site, we are able to tailor them to the specific needs of the school.”

For example, each master’s program has three elective courses designed around the needs of the school. If the school is a sciences magnet, then the focus is on science-related classes. If the school has received a computer grant, then the electives can focus on that area.

In addition, students spend a year doing actual research where they work in teams and study problems within their own schools. They review the research literature. Then, they do a classroom intervention and write up how they conducted their project and the results. This information is shared in a colloquium.

“In our two-year program, students spend two days a week in seminars with their colleagues working on scholarly research, reading best practices and curriculum development, and it really penetrates the school culture,” Symcox noted. “And, it’s democratic. Students choose their own research projects. That’s very different from a top-down model of reform that is often imposed upon teachers. So, the program is popular for that reason.”

Kathleen Fulton, director of NCTAF’s Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century, said Cal State Long Beach received one of the three grants for a couple of reasons.

“First, the university has such a strong relationship with the urban schools in Long Beach,” she explained. “The university also has a model program that deals with teachers’ needs at the schools and helps meet the challenges in these urban schools. The program has students working in cohort or teams, which helps bring about change within the school environments.

“(The CSULB program) represented an interesting and promising model that we wanted to work with,” Fulton added. “Now, the idea is to weave that program into a teaching preparation program also on site for new teacher candidates.”

The NCTAF-MetLife Foundation Urban Teaching Academies are expected to provide high-priority urban schools with well-prepared teachers who will collaborate as members of professional teams that can create and sustain a culture of successful teaching and learning. The initiative is also expected to serve as a model program that supports teacher preparation and retention efforts throughout the country.

Media Contacts: Rick Gloady, 562/985-5454, rgloady@csulb.edu
Shayne Schroeder, 562/985-1727, schroede@csulb.edu


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