School of Education awarded “Race to the Top” grant to establish Syracuse Urban Inclusive Teacher Residents (SUITR) program

The New York State Education Department’s “Race to the Top” grant awarded $1.6 million to Syracuse University’s School of Education to start the teacher-preparation pilot program “Syracuse Urban Inclusive Teacher Residents (SUITR).” The grant is part of a state-wide effort to effectively prepare and motivate teachers to educate students in high needs schools and to increase retention of teachers in order to positively affect student achievement. Research shows that a clinically-based approach centered in schools increases teacher retention in high needs schools and also helps prepare teachers for the realities of working in such classrooms. In an effort to improve teacher retention and teacher impact, the New York State Education Department invited institutions to participate in a pilot program to address teacher shortage issues through a graduate-level teacher preparation program.

Corinne Smith, Professor and Chair of Teaching and Leadership Programs is Principal Investigator on the SUITR grant. She says, “We are looking forward to receiving applications from individuals with bachelors’ degrees in a broad range of fields who desire to become secondary education specialists within the general education classroom to make the curriculum fully accessible to students with disabilities. Our aim is to augment the achievement of students with disabilities by tailoring the curriculum to their particular learning needs and styles.”

Thirty-six candidates will participate in the pilot program, a 4-semester residency in which they will develop their skills teaching secondary education, special education, and other topics in general education in urban high schools. Through a partnership with Hughes School and William Nottingham High School of the Syracuse City School District, the candidates will create a corps of secondary special education teachers who will improve student performance through integrating content, professional knowledge, and clinical experience.

The grant provides funds for Syracuse University’s School of Education to test its new 7-12 Special Education Master’s Program which follows the school’s tradition of devoting particular attention and resources to inclusive education for all special needs students. The goals of increasing teacher performance, effectiveness, and competence are outlined in the program, and each graduate will leave with knowledge from “tried-and-true” practices from the School of Education’s years of experience, skills gained through working with a talented school-based mentor team, and competencies from a number of NCATE-accredited programs.

Applications for the SUITR program are currently being accepted for the Fall 2012 semester. Students accepted to the SUITR program will receive generous stipends in addition to a tuition reduction. SUITR’s will also receive one-to-one mentoring from expert teacher mentors in the field.

Smith says, “We welcome inquiries from individuals who already have education degrees, and also those who don’t. The talents that non-education majors bring to their work in special education is an added value in creative educational planning for our students.”

In addition to Syracuse University, the other academic institutions that were awarded grants include Mercy College, Union College, Fordham University, Queens College, SUNY Albany, and SUNY Oswego.

The “Race to the Top” funds reward states that are reforming and innovating education in order to increase student growth, close achievement gaps, improve high school graduation rates, and effectively prepare students for college and professional positions in the workplace.

This Graduate Level Clinically Rich Teacher Preparation Pilot Program and its activities are supported, in whole or in part, by a grant from the New York State Education Department.