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FMU Center of Excellence continues to train teachers of poor, rural areas

FLORENCE, S.C. -- Nearly five years ago, Lorin W. Andersen began to think about retiring from a satisfying 30-plus-year career in higher education. He had received his Ph.D. degree in measurement, evaluation and statistical analysis from the University of Chicago, was named the University of South Carolina’s Distinguished Professor where he taught since 1973, and published 17 books and monographs, 19 book chapters, and 33 journal articles. Perhaps, he thought life in academe had run its course.

But after meeting with the president, provost and dean of education at Francis Marion University to establish FMU’s Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty, Andersen will spend part of his retirement helping to better educate children living in rural, impoverished South Carolina.

Poverty remains the greatest barrier to educational access and achievement in this state, said FMU president Fred Carter. The Center has provided teachers and parents a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities attendant to teaching those who are denied so much, he added.

“The Francis Marion Center of Excellence is doing an outstanding job in preparing teachers to work with children of poverty. Without question, this Center has become the premier resource in South Carolina for helping teachers learn how to provide high-quality education for all children of poverty,” Carter said. “It’s a perfect example of how the Francis Marion School of Education’s outstanding faculty is making a difference for the citizens of our state.”

Its beginnings were rooted with the awarding of a $700,000 grant from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education aimed at increasing the achievement of children of poverty by improving the quality of undergraduate teacher preparation, graduate teacher preparation and professional development of in-service teachers. Other grants have helped sustain the Center.

“My vision from the beginning has been the creation of a place where people can learn strategies specific to dealing with children of poverty throughout the Southeast,” Andersen said. “At the forefront of this effort are the needs of the children.”

His vision of a brighter future for children of poverty dates back to his studies under Benjamin Bloom, author of Bloom's Taxonomy, the multi-tiered model of classifying thinking according to six cognitive levels of complexity. Bloom was also one of the designers of Title I, the federally-funded education program for assisting economically-disadvantaged children.”

Andersen’s vision is realized through the Center’s five major goals: design and implement teacher education programs that enable graduates to effectively teach children of poverty; provide high-quality professional development programs; equip teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to work effectively with parents and community resources; develop a program which leads to South Carolina certification as a Teacher of Children of Poverty; and become the premier resource in South Carolina for helping teachers learn how to provide a high-quality education for all children of poverty.

These goals are being met due in large part to the Center’s partnerships with school districts. Partner districts are intimately involved with, and contribute to, the activities of the Center. Administrators and teachers of the partner districts work with FMU faculty to determine how best to prepare teachers to teach children of poverty.

Partner districts are as follows: Clarendon 1 and 2, Darlington, Dillon 2 and 3, Florence 1 and 2, and Marion 1, 2 and 7.

“FMU’s Center of Excellence is a good example of the collaboration between our School of Education and Pee Dee area schools to meet a crucial need in our area,” said Ron Faulkenberry, dean of FMU’s School of Education. “We look forward to increasing these collaborative efforts.”

The Center also has participating districts that are included in the outreach activities of the Center. Administrators and teachers of the participating districts benefit from the activities offered and materials developed by the Center, but they are not directly involved in the ongoing operation. Participating districts may elect to become a partner district at any time if the Center of Excellence partner district space is available.

Participating districts are as follows: Chesterfield, Clarendon 3, Dillon 1, Florence 3, Florence 4, Florence 5, Lee, Marlboro and Williamsburg.

“The curriculum development projects funded by the Commission on Higher Education and the S.C. State Department of Education afford participating teachers the opportunity to work collaboratively with their peers across the Pee Dee and under the direction of Dr. Andersen, a nationally recognized researcher,” said Tammy Pawloski, director of the COE. “The resulting curriculum units, developed by these local teachers that have experienced success in working with children of poverty, are certain to be products that improve instruction in schools that serve large populations of low-income families.”

Other Center of Excellence staff members are: Markey Bee, project manager and school-parent-community liaison; Brenda Hill, administrative assistant; Cheryl Lane, coordinator of teacher education programs; and Janis McWayne, assistant professor of education and coordinator of health resources.

#200 / 6-26-07
Last Published: June 28, 2007 1:11 PM
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