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The Riverside Church Awards Teachers College $1.5 Million for Teacher Development and Retention

As part of a $10 million program of grants to the community, The Riverside Church’s Jubilee Fund awarded $1.5 million to Teachers College for The Harlem Educational Renaissance Project, a professional development program for schools in former District 5 in Central Harlem.

As part of a $10 million program of grants to the community, The Riverside Church's Jubilee Fund awarded $1.5 million to Teachers College for The Harlem Educational Renaissance Project, a professional development program for schools in former District 5 in Central Harlem.

The Jubilee Fund provides grants for initiatives focused on improving community development, public education, public health, and youth outreach in Harlem and Morningside Heights. The official announcement took place at services on Sunday, February 16th.

"The Jubilee Fund is one expression of Riverside's intention to make its ministry a vibrant witness outside the doors of this church," said Rev. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister of The Riverside Church. "In working with Teachers College and the public school system, we hope to spark an educational chain reaction that starts by planting the seed with teachers and continues to grow through the children in the District 5 schools. We hope other faith-based organizations will be inspired by our efforts and work to initiate similar programs that benefit the City's children and families."

After the announcement was made, Acting President Darlyne Bailey noted, "The Riverside Church funding of the Renaissance Project coupled with the new financial commitment of our College Trustees to facilitate the initiation of several education projects in Harlem, provide a strong beginning for a community-wide alliance."

Lester Young, Jr. of the City's Department of Education said the Harlem Educational Renaissance Project will offer teachers more opportunities to improve their skills and spend more time with students. "The idea is if teachers become more skilled, the more likely they're going to stay," he said.

The partnership, Project: Harlem Educational Renaissance, will build teacher capacity in District 5. According to Ruth Vinz, the Director of the Center for Professional Development, and Kate Unger, the Director of the New Teacher Academy, the two faculty members representing Teachers College in the project, "We have made a promise, as a nation, to leave no child behind. We have committed ourselves to providing every child with a highly qualified teacher, but we are not keeping our promise in Harlem's Community School District 5. Approximately 80 percent of children are currently being left behind in English Language Arts and Math, poverty levels for children exceed the already high New York City mean by 16.4 percent, turnover rates for teachers and district leaders are high, suspension rates are rising, and police incidents in the District's schools have increased sixteen-fold over four years."

Vinz and Unger added, "Teachers are pivotal, crucial links in any attempt to improve student learning in classrooms. Transformation in schools and districts starts with a comprehensive program for teachers, who have the greatest direct impact on children's learning in classrooms. Taken together, the facts suggest the need for comprehensive reform in District 5 and provide evidence for what happens when schools are not able to provide quality education for students. We believe the starting point in providing quality education for the children of District 5 resides in creating strong support for teachers."

The overall objective of the project is to build systemic teaching and leadership capacity in District 5 through creating a District 5-TC Professional Development District Partnership. The first steps toward helping to empower the District 5 school community become the Renaissance District will be to develop a cadre of teachers and teacher leaders in the district who understand and implement effective pedagogy, are literate and fluent in appropriate core curricular content areas with integrated assessments, reflect critically on the practice of teaching, promote human dignity, exemplify ethical and democratic principles in their classrooms and throughout the school, and empower students to achieve at high levels.

These first steps will lead to increasing retention of teachers in District 5 throughout teachers' career cycles, provide quality in the teaching force, and commit teachers and the community to quality education in the district.

The project will provide a series of institutes specifically geared to support District 5 teachers and teacher leaders throughout the continuum of teaching. It consists of four professional development institutes for teachers in different stages of their careers. These include: Project Teach, (years 2 through 4); the Teacher Leadership Corps program (years 5 to 8); The Professional Teachers Network (years 8 and above); and The Staff Developers Forum for teachers who have taken on staff development responsibilities.

The institutes will seamlessly interconnect curriculum, teaching, teacher learning, student learning, achievement, and assessment with school improvement. All will continue throughout the course of the year, and are intended, minimally, as one-year, but preferably participants would continue through multiple years. The College is also creating opportunities for ongoing collaborative learning embedded in the day-to-day work of teaching and supporting teachers.

Last year, Teachers College introduced The New Teacher Program in District 5 as the first step toward deep and lasting change in the capacity and quality of the teaching force. Teachers College has a strong track record in teacher retention and student achievement in District 32, the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

At the gala opening reception for new District 5 teachers in the fall of 2002, 150 were in attendance, including district-level leaders, principals, assistant principals, staff developers and new teachers. The new Superintendent, Dennis Pradier, remarked that never in his long public school career had he seen so much enthusiasm for a program, and that his challenge would be to sustain and build on that positive energy to inspire the District's efforts toward improvement. More than 120 new District 5 teachers applied for the TC New Teacher Program this academic year.

Commenting on the unique quality of Project: Harlem Educational Renaissance, Vinz and Unger noted, "One of the obstacles to effective professional development programs is that such programs are difficult to sustain and institutionalize. We have learned that teacher development must be developmental, ongoing, sustained, interconnected and embedded in the day-to-day work of teachers. We have found that teacher development based on research, theory, and best practices carried out in cohort groups with master teacher facilitators in collaboration with an institution of higher education encourages teachers to improve their practice. As a result, their students' achievements are grounded in the current knowledge available to systematically translate research and theory into better understandings of classroom practices, assessment, standards-based teaching, and ways of working with parents to promote their children's successful learning."

Published Monday, Mar. 3, 2003