Graduate students teach in failing Bronx public schools
Part of Fordham University’s identity as a Catholic university is service to others. As a major force in the Bronx, Fordham has an obligation to reach out to better the community. The Fordham Graduate School of Education is recognizing this obligation by offering a new residency program this year called the Teacher Residency Scholars Program in Adolescence Education.
The program was piloted last year in a Manhattan school with success and was rewarded a $2,500,000 grant from the Department of Education for the next two years.
“At the earlier pilot, teachers, teacher candidates and high school students all benefited from Fordham having an increased and more integrated presence in the school,” Dr. Jane Bolgatz, assistant professor of teacher education, said regarding the pilot program.
The idea of this new program is to place student teachers at Intermediate School 117, Middle School 391, Discovery High School and International School for Liberal Arts, all struggling schools here in the Bronx, where they will teach for three days a week. The program is a competitive scholarship program. The 24 students selected from the applicant pool will receive a $30,000 stipend, a $10,000 scholarship and a 20 percent tuition reduction while working toward their Masters of Science in teaching at Fordham.
The students who are selected will have to sign an agreement stating that they will teach in a high-need New York high school for four years after they complete the program.
A high-need school is defined as a school under registration review, a persistently lowest achieving school or a school in “improvement status” where there is a teacher shortage. It is estimated by the New York State Department of Education that 50 percent of new teachers in high-need schools will leave within their first five years of teaching. This creates a vicious cycle in which high-need schools stay high-need because of teacher turnover and shortages.
The goal of this program is to give the students who have a real desire to work in these schools the support they need through mentoring and scholarship, with the hopes that they might successfully stay in these schools long-term. By receiving student-teaching experience in the very schools at which they may find themselves working, they are better preparing themselves to meet the needs of their future students.
The New York State Department of Education is choosing to fund programs like this because it recognizes the need to combat teacher turnover as part of the solution to improve Bronx schools. The Department of Education put out a request for grant proposals for Graduate Level Clinically Rich Teacher Preparation Pilot Programs.
Such programs include mentoring by a certified teacher in the classroom and emphasis on getting experience in the class- room through collaboration and integrated course work. These types of programs will hopefully better prepare new teachers to be more effective in these challenging school environments.
The Department of Education recognizes a critical shortage in teachers prepared to teach math and science in particular, as well as teachers prepared to teach students with disabilities or students needing to learn or improve their English. Positions in these areas are historically the ones that experience the highest turnover.
To compound the problem, these are critical subjects where it is crucial to have experienced and skilled teachers. The hope is that a program like Fordham’s will prepare graduate-education students who wish to make a difference in the greater New York area.
The Fordham Graduate School of Education has a grant to run the Teacher Residency Scholars Program in Adolescence Education for the next two school years, with applications due in March of this year. The program will run June through August, a total of 15 months.