Francis Marion University is the recipient of a new grant from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education that will fund the establishment of the Center of Excellence for College and Career Readiness at FMU.
The Center will provide professional development to teachers throughout the state, will leverage and expand the work of the S.C. Course Alignment Project and will serve to coordinate and facilitate relationships among P-20 initiatives throughout the state. P-20 programs are those that support an integrated educational system from preschool into college.
Initially, the Center will work in depth with two local school districts, Florence School District One and Florence District Four. Designated middle and high-school teachers from those districts will receive instruction in post-secondary readiness through a course taught by the Center’s co-directors, Dr. Meredith Love-Steinmetz and Dr. Matt Nelson, both of the English Department at Francis Marion. Teachers from that class will serve as the primary instructors at a new Eighth Grade Academy scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2015. The Academy will be housed at FMU.
The Academy will be aimed at students who have the potential to succeed in college, but who possess certain risk factors that have been shown to hinder students’ chances of attending a post-secondary educational institution. The Academy will include time spent on a college campus and will feature activities that encourage problem-solving, goal setting, and hands-on learning.
Love-Steinmetz says the combination of specially trained teachers and an environment designed to foster educational aspirations will be a powerful tool for the state’s children.
“We’d like to work with teachers and students in South Carolina to help students develop the mindsets and skills that will prepare them to meet their goals after high school,” says Love-Steinmetz. “Are more students believing that they can go to college? Do more students have the tools to attend college, if that’s their choice?”
Besides benefitting student attendees, the Academy will also offer teachers hands-on experience in preparing students for college.
Nelson and Love-Steinmetz will work with other FMU professors and faculty members from universities and technical colleges to spread the Center’s work and influence statewide.
The S.C. CHE grant is for $250,000 each year for the next seven years. The grant funds staff for the center, training and travel expenses for teachers and research data collection and analysis.
During its first year, the Center will focus on the following initiatives:
- Coordinate assessment and follow-up of the South Carolina Course Alignment Project. Contact current participants and schedule regional meetings.
- Create a directory of P-20 initiatives in the state and hold a conference on readiness in the spring of 2015.
- Recruit teachers from Florence District One and Florence District four to be "Readiness Consultants" who will take a course in the spring on college and career readiness (taught by Love) and who will also serve as the primary instructors for the 8th Grade Academy.
- Conduct the initial 8th Grade Academy in the summer of 2015.
- Work with the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) and The South Carolina Advanced Technological Education (SC ATE) Center of Excellence at Florence-Darlington Technical College and their partners to better understand the state of career readiness in South Carolina.