Francis Marion University has been awarded a five-year, $700,000 grant from the S.C. Commission on Higher Education to start a Center of Excellence to prepare teachers of children of poverty.
The purpose of the center is to increase the achievement of children of poverty by improving the quality of undergraduate teacher preparation, graduate teacher preparation, and the professional development of in-service teachers.
Five universities applied for the grant, and FMU was the only one to receive priority full funding. Francis Marion has pledged to continue the program beyond the five years covered by the grant. Some of the center’s programs have already begun.
“Poverty remains the greatest barrier to educational access and achievement in this state,” said FMU president Fred Carter. “This center will provide teachers and parents a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities attendant to teaching those who are denied so much.”
The center’s five major goals are to: 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 master’s degree 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.
“Poverty as a risk factor has received very little attention by educators, researchers, and political leaders,” said Ron Faulkenberry, dean of FMU’s School of Education. “This is what makes this center exciting. Our focus will be on preparing teachers to deal with the special needs of children living in poverty. This Center of Excellence will have a significant impact on FMU, Pee Dee area schools, and the students we serve.”
Tammy Pawloski, associate professor of education at FMU, is the center’s director.
“The Center of Excellence will afford FMU the opportunity to truly make a difference in terms of the practices and strategies that are implemented around our state and throughout our nation,” said Pawloski.
“Our goal is to use both the knowledge of experienced and successful practitioners, as well as existing research evidence to develop specific training programs for pre- and in-service teachers that will best meet every child’s needs, regardless of their economic background.”
FMU will work with an impressive set of partners to achieve these goals, beginning with the 18 school districts in the Pee Dee region. Three “partner” districts – Darlington County, Dillon 2 and Marion 1 – will be intimately involved with, and contribute to, the activities of the center.
“We are very excited for all of the school districts involved,” said Ray Rogers, superintendent of Dillon 2. “This was a huge collaborative effort. I don’t know what the school districts of the Pee Dee would do without Francis Marion University.”
The university will also work with the Pee Dee Education Center, as well as two existing COEs: the COE for the Education and Equality of African-American Students at Benedict College, and the COE in Accelerated Learning at the College of Charleston.
“The Center of Excellence marks a new chapter in the history of cooperation between FMU and the school districts in the Pee Dee,” said Tom Truitt, executive director of the Pee Dee Education Center. “The grant will improve the quality of education for Pee Dee students and make FMU the premier university in the south for preparing teachers to deal with children of poverty.”
Francis Marion will also partner with the S.C. Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) at Winthrop University, and the National Center for the Education of Students at Risk (CRESPAR) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.
Primary activities of the center will include revising FMU’s undergraduate teacher education program; training teachers to use research; linking research directly with professional development; helping teachers understand parents who live in poverty and the resources available to them; and seeking state certification for graduates of a to-be-developed master’s degree program.
For more information about the Center of Excellence, contact Pawloski at 843-661-1475.
#6 / 7-22-04 / L, R, dailies