UB’s Graduate School of Education continues partnering with regional education leadership for better classroom experiences

A teacher stands in front of a dry erase board containing math equations, while students raise their hands to answer a question.

Release Date: December 12, 2014

“We see local districts as essential partners. And this partnership is a win-win for both.”
Jaekyung Lee, dean, Graduate School of Education
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A new collaborative program asking for help from the top local school district administrators and a competitive award leading to more university-local school cooperation are the latest examples of the Graduate School of Education’s commitment to increasing its involvement and “partnerships” with community schools.

The first program, called the Community Education Adviser panel, links local superintendents willing to collaborate with UB. Working together, both university and local schools officials hope to improve the education that elementary and secondary school students receive.

The second example of university-local schools cooperation is the UB Graduate School of Education (GSE) Interprofessional Collaboration for School Improvement Award. GSE will hold a competition for schools to develop the best plan for improving student outcomes, whether it’s academic achievement, health and wellness, safety or social and emotional well-being.

“We see local districts as essential partners,” says Jaekyung Lee, GSE dean and professor. “And this partnership is a win-win for both.”

GSE continues to expand its portfolio of research-based community engagement for students from pre-K through high school graduation. Both the advisory panel and the school improvement award are examples of how the university takes very seriously its responsibility to improve classroom education in this area, according to Lee.

“The group of community education advisers helps bring more glue to this networking,” Lee says. “While the Graduate School of Education prepares school teachers, administrators, counselors, psychologists and librarians, we need to change the model of training. The GSE Interprofessional Collaboration Award program will help identify and disseminate some best practices of team collaboration in local schools.”  

The Community Education Adviser concept helps both local school districts and university faculty by addressing gaps the other group can fill, says Robert W. Christmann, executive director of the Western New York Educational Service Council.

“The district administrators can assist us by giving us access to educators with expertise in areas we find useful,” says Christmann. “It’s helpful to university professors because sometimes you get a disconnect to what is really going on in the classroom when you’re teaching at the university level.”

Strengthening what local school and university educators call “partnerships” with the Western New York educational community has become one of the main principles in GSE’s mission. So far, eight school superintendents have agreed to serve as Community Education Advisers, including superintendents from the Frontier, Clarence, Depew and West Seneca school districts.

“Every superintendent we met with so far is talking about dramatic shifts they’re seeing in their community, in their students, and shifts in the needs within their teaching force,” says Randy Yerrick professor and associate dean for interprofessional education and engagement in the Department of Learning and Instruction.

“Superintendents are talking about the state’s migration of policies and accountability. There is just a big ‘stirring of the pot’ going on. And we’re trying to make sure we’re current on what the districts need. And they’re current on what we can offer and how we can help.”

The Interprofessional Collaboration Award will be presented to one Western New York school in spring 2015. The award presentation will include a public recognition ceremony at GSE’s Graduate Student Research Symposium, where the winning team will share its story with graduate students, faculty and guests.

Members of the winning team also will receive tuition scholarships for 12 one-credit hour professional development courses offered through GSE. Or the winning team could request a professional development program designed and delivered by GSE faculty to meet a specific need in that school or district.  (Applications are available at http://tinyurl.com/UBIPC)

In exchange for the UB course credit or the individually designed development program, the winning school will provide an opportunity for UB faculty to conduct research on site. The research will focus on one of GSE’s core educational values — including strengthening UB’s commitment to preK-12 educational partnerships, strengthening UB’s reputation as a research institution and improving the GSE curriculum regarding interprofessional collaboration.

“It’s an opportunity for schools to showcase the good things that can happen for students when professionals cooperate,” says Tom Ramming, clinical associate professor and LIFTS coordinator for the Graduate School of Education.

The overriding theme remains the same: How can UB expertise make a difference for students in the grassroots environment of the classroom, and how can the real-world experiences of teachers and administrators in local districts add to UB researchers’ ability to bring changes that improve how students learn?

“We think that UB has to have both effective research and people who are helpful and who must understand the needs of the district,” notes Yerrick. “That’s a long-standing commitment that lots and lots of faculty members have done individually.

“We have lots of faculty doing lots of very cool things within districts that only a small number of people are aware of for some reason,” he says. “We’re interested in changing that perception.

“I can think of at least eight different faculty members currently doing projects out in the field. Collectively, we’re trying to do it better.”

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