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October 23, 1998


BALTIMORE--Children in Maryland public schools may go through as many different teachers as they do weeks of school. "One student I know had 13 different teachers during the first 13 weeks of school," says John Y. Lee, director of the Urban Teacher Education (UTE) track at UMBC.

Lee says other barriers these children face include having inexperienced and novice teachers who have low expectations for the children they teach; and having uncertified teachers, substitute teachers or sometimes no teachers at all in class.

Hoping to change these conditions, Lee has established the School-University Partnership to Prepare Outstanding Responsive Teachers (SUPPORT) Project for low-income and other disadvantaged children. The program provides veteran teachers with financial and professional support; better prepares teacher candidates for the real-life challenges of teaching; and provides academic services for children identified by their teachers as having the greatest difficulty.

A collaborative effort, Project SUPPORT includes UMBC, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore County Public Schools and the Maryland State Department of Education. The first demonstration schools participating in the program are Mills-Parole Elementary in Anne Arundel County and Johnnycake Elementary and Southwest Academy in Baltimore County. Additional schools in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City and Baltimore County will be selected in July 1999.

Project SUPPORT teacher candidates participate in a two-year internship in urban schools under the guidance of experienced teachers. Veteran teachers in the program receive a stipend for supervising teacher candidates. Veteran teachers also receive training from the Baltimore County Schools' Department of Professional Development in mentoring teacher candidates, as well as from Project SUPPORT clinical professors.

The veteran teachers and the children they teach benefit from having teacher candidates working in the classroom and providing more one-on-one, small and large group interaction, says Lee. The teacher candidates themselves benefit by combining what they are learning with what they are experiencing as interns, he adds.

"Too many teacher education institutions prepare teacher candidates by having them read and write papers in university classes," says Lee. "That is, training them to become good university students with minimal hands-on training. Then when teacher candidates go into schools, the experience is too brief and in schools where most beginning teachers are not assigned - affluent and high-achieving schools."

"In Maryland," he adds, "the bulk of beginning teachers are given the toughest teaching assignments."

Project SUPPORT teacher candidates work 20-hour weeks as interns/co-teachers and receive financial support. They are guaranteed a position at the school where they intern following graduation from the UTE track. And, in keeping with the national movement to link teacher preparation with performance standards, Project SUPPORT relies on performance-based instruction methods and assessments to ensure that teacher candidates will be able to provide all children with quality instruction.

Project SUPPORT also provides academic services for children through UMBC's School to University (STU) Program, an accelerated or Gifted and Talented Program for children whose talents haven't been tapped by traditional teaching methods, says Lee. The weekend and summer program offers teacher candidates the opportunity to continue working with the children outside the classroom.

"Because the longer disadvantaged kids stay in school, the further they fall behind on academic achievement measures, we as a community have to provide better and additional education opportunities for our kids," says Lee.

"Project SUPPORT clearly supports experienced teachers, new teachers, teaching candidate and students," says Virginia Pilato, chief of the Program Approval and Assessment Branch of the Maryland State Department of Education. "I don't know of any other model that does all of this at once."

Adds Pilato, "This program addresses pressing national and state concerns. I must commend UMBC. This is really about improving the lives of children. What could be more important?"

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Posted by dwinds1 at October 23, 1998 12:00 AM