A training center for Schenectady teachers of mathematics, science, and technology will be established at the College, thanks to a $191,000, two-year grant from the General Electric Fund.
The Union College Teaching and Learning Center is designed to provide new skills to teachers in the fifth through ninth grades.
Here's how it will work:
A committee of teachers, school administrators, Union College personnel, and business and community representatives will select twenty teachers to participate in training and leadership programs over two summers. The teachers will be trained in the most current knowledge in their disciplines and in the use of technology in the classroom. These teachers will be expected to share what they've learned with their colleagues.
The center also will provide in-service programs for as many as fifty teachers in four half-day seminars during the school year.
Patrick Allen, director of the College's Educational Studies program, said that Schenectady teachers have been frustrated by district budget reductions that have left little money available for professional development.
“These teachers are really creative and very receptive to new ideas,” he said. “They're very capable and enthusiastic about this project and improving the schools. Professional development at the College will motivate them to develop innovative and meaningful learning environments for their students.”
The center was developed by representatives from the College, the General Electric Company, and the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce along with a team of teachers and administrators from the Schenectady City Schools.
President Roger Hull said, “Schenectady is our home and it is also the home of some of our best and brightest students. We believe strongly in this program because to ignore the problems that plague nearly every city school district would be to imperil the future of higher education as well.”
He praised GE, noting that its College Bound and other programs have already provided far-reaching opportunities to improve student performance. “We think that the center, with the GE Fund's generous support, can go even further by energizing math, science, and technology teachers in the critically-important grades of five through nine.”
The student population served by Schenectady schools has changed dramatically during the past fifteen years. Standardized test scores have declined, as has the district enrollment. As in many city school systems, the numbers of students with behavioral or cognitive difficulties have risen.
To judge how well the program is working, the College will poll teachers and could review their students' test scores, attendance rates, and discipline referrals, Allen said. Although more difficult to measure, teacher enthusiasm also is important.
Including this grant, Union received about $1.4 million in commitments from GE employees and retirees and the GE Fund in the past year. That includes:
- $750,000 to redesign the College's engineering curriculum;
- $232,000 from the Fund to match contributions by alumni who are GE employees or retirees;
- $260,000 to support the Term in Industry program, through which Union students gain work experience;
- $10,000 from the GE Fund to help support the College's hosting of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research this spring.