I’m pleased to share with you developments in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education over the past year. We focused most heavily on improvements to our assessment system, in support of earning full approval from the Connecticut State Department of Education. There are two primary areas that the State identified for improvement. The first is upgrading our reporting systems for assessing and tracking student progress so that we can better use performance data to drive improvements. The second is adjusting our key assessments so that each of our programs is recognized nationally for alignment to quality standards. To accomplish these tasks, we have hired new faculty members to ensure the proper expertise in all program areas.
Reporting systems. We have improved our system for gathering information on student performance so that we are better able to make informed comparisons within each program. Our data sets now enable us to compare how students are doing on the main campus against students at our eastern campus in Griswold. We also compare how students are doing in traditional graduate programs with students who begin their education programs as undergraduates or who participate in a cohort or other customized programs. And we ensure, in our field and clinical placements, that our students have exposure to schools and classrooms in both urban and suburban settings. We are adopting new software package, Taskstream, that supports all of our assessment and accreditation needs. Not only is this software better suited for our national accreditation standards, it also enables us to better meet our external reporting needs and upgrade to e-portfolios at a later date.
Key assessments. Over the past academic year we have substantially revised our key assessments—the sets of learning tasks that measure student progress in each program. These key assessments range from standardized tests and transcript reviews to course assessments and reviews of student teaching or other measures of student performance in the field. Our key assessments are now fully aligned to national standards, and this has been paying off in program recognition. In February, our initial teacher preparation program for English teachers at the secondary level received full national recognition from the National Council of Teachers of English. (It joins Educational Leadership as our second program to be nationally recognized.) Most of our other programs are nationally recognized with conditions, and we are confident that with the improvements that we have made, our applications for full national recognition, submitted spring semester, will be successful also.
Faculty resources. We have established content liaisons with the College of Arts and Sciences to provide better expertise in the academic content areas for students in our initial teacher preparation programs. These are professors of biology, chemistry, English, mathematics, psychology and Spanish who assist us in fine-tuning our curriculum. We are delighted that six new professors will be joining our College in August. Dr. David Title, who specializes in educational leadership and was superintendent of Fairfield Public Schools, holds a doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Mark Frizzell, whose focus is also educational leadership, holds a doctorate from the University of Connecticut. He was principal of Griswold High School and he will teach primarily on our Griswold Campus. Two professors join us from the Midwest—Dr. Cynthia Dieterich, who focuses on special education and holds a doctorate from Kent State University, and Ms. Lauren Rapacki, who specializes in elementary education and math education and will receive her doctoral degree from Indiana University this fall. In elementary education and English education, Dr. Susan Ringler-Pet joins us from Central Connecticut State University where she was assistant professor; she holds a doctorate from the University of Connecticut. And in social studies education Dr. Eric Freedman joins us from his post as social studies teacher at Millennium High School in New Your City; he earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin.
In this issue. The summer edition of our newsletter includes the latest about Noyce scholarships for those interested in teaching biology or mathematics at the middle school (grades 7 and 8) or high school level (rising juniors, apply now). Literacy candidates shared their expertise at our 4th annual conference, Motivating through Literacy: Practice, Perspective and Promise. If this is your area of interest, watch for the next literacy conference in spring of 2017. We also proudly present an update on the pioneering Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School in Bridgeport—Dr. Lois Libby was instrumental in the school’s design and continues with innovative best practices. When you step off the commencement stage, degree or certificate of advanced study in hand, know that the SHU Educators' Alumni Association wants to network with you—newcomers are welcome! And finally, the “spotlight” is on new faculty: Drs. Charles Britton (Ed.D., University of Connecticut) and Kristin Rainville (Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University) just completed their first year in the College.
More exciting news. The Farrington College of Education notched several significant accomplishments this spring.
- In February, the Connecticut Association of Schools named Sacred Heart University Alumnus Alan Strauss as High School Principal of the Year. (Straus earned his Master of Arts in Teaching degree on main campus and his administrator certification and sixth year degree at our Griswold campus.)
- In March, the National Science Foundation awarded the University a $1.2 million grant to prepare secondary teachers in biology and mathematics. This prestigious Noyce Scholarship program meets 100 percent of financial need for students in their junior, senior, and graduate student years. Education Prof. Bonnie Maur and Biology Prof. Mark Beekey secured this prestigious grant to address the critical shortage of math and science teachers in Connecticut.
- In April, the State Board of Education approved the College of Health Profession’s Speech Language Pathology Program; we offer professional certification for speech language pathologists to practice in Connecticut’s P-12 schools.
- Also in April, under the direction of Jeffrey Rumpf, Horizons at SHU featured a “Circus of Learning” fundraising event that introduced new friends of Horizons to the children, education students, teachers, and education faculty who have worked so diligently to build Horizons at SHU into an outstanding enrichment program, one that is narrowing the academic achievement gap here in Fairfield County.
- In May the SHU Alumni Educators Association honored two award recipients: Tracey King Sapeinza for the Outstanding Educator Award and Keith Chapman for the Outstanding Administrator Award.
Special thanks to full-time and adjunct professors, clinical supervisors, professional staff members, and PK-12 stakeholders for their expertise and sound judgment in support of all of our professional certification and degree programs. Most of all, I would like to thank our students for their understanding, as we build our assessment system to better enable informed decisions on student progress and programmatic improvement. I have much admiration for our students. Undergraduates forgo many elective options to complete coursework in our professional education sequence. At the graduate level, nearly all of our students hold down full-time teaching positions or internships, and all this while maintaining personal and family obligations. They have much to teach us.
Best wishes for an enjoyable remainder to your summer.