FSU awarded EPIC grant

The education department has been awarded the Elevate Preparation Impact Children (EPIC) grant in collaboration with The Education Cooperative (TEC), said Julia Zoino-Jeannetti, chair of the education department.

The EPIC grant, a $47,520 award, is allotted to universities that partner with school districts to enhance the student teaching experience for both students and educators. The grant is awarded to schools after an application is submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Zoino-Jeannetti.

This grant assists with placing student teachers in diverse school districts that have a “high level of need,” said Zoino-Jeannetti.

She added this model will differ from the way student teaching has been conducted before because student teachers will be placed in groups in a school rather than being sent out independently.

She said the education department has partnered with TEC, which will facilitate a partnership with many school districts including Framingham, Holliston and Hopkinton.

These schools will collaborate with FSU to design experiences that focus on certain areas, such as English language proficiency, she said.

According to Zoino-Jeannetti, the implementation of the grant is still in the planning phase, with members of the education department and representatives from TEC being selected to participate in the steering committee. The department hopes to begin the process of placing students by June.

President F. Javier Cevallos said, “This grant provides us with valuable funding to ensure that our student teaching model is among the best in the nation. The money will allow us to partner with local school districts to develop a comprehensive plan for evaluating teacher candidates using research, mentorship and best practices. For the education department, it is an additional resource that will allow our faculty to improve upon an already strong teacher preparation program.”

Susan Dargan, acting dean of the education department, said she oversaw and submitted the grant application. “This grant will allow us to meet regularly with teachers and administrators in TEC districts where our students are placed for their four field experiences as they progress through the education program. We will discuss how the supervising teachers view our students’ strengths and growth areas, and then make changes in our programs as appropriate,” she said.

“We will also spend a lot of time discussing the role of feedback from the supervising teachers in the development of our teacher candidates. We plan to institute more structured feedback based on the data that we collect at our meetings. We plan to develop and execute the cohort model for our student teachers, which is based on best practices in the discipline,” she added.

Junior Amber Jimenez said, “It will give students a chance to obviously get the experience they need for their career, but also help out schools in need. I’m sure these students at FSU are well-educated from a well-known teaching school. It will help students at schools that are underperforming.”

Dargan said the structure of the cohort model is so student teachers can have a “shared experience” and faculty supervisors will spend less time traveling between schools where students are placed.

Zoino-Jeannetti said, “This focuses our area in particular in a cohort model that will support student teachers collaborating with one another in districts and in teacher-prep programs. … There will be some development of teacher preparation and common assessments.”

Junior Jackie Carlson, an education coordinate and English major, who participated in a field study in Marlborough, said she wished the field study experience was more consistent. “I was mostly just observing the class, whereas some people in my field study class got to be more involved with the students and lead activities. I think the EPIC grant will help the students be on the same page as the teachers, especially if there are multiple student teachers going to a school.”

Senior education coordinate and English major Sam McGuire said his experience student teaching was “excellent” and his SP and program supervisor were very helpful. “Some people do not always have this luxury,” he added.

“Overall, the experience is hard to judge, because every university is held to the same standards, so theoretically any teacher should be fully prepared to enter the workforce. FSU does an exceptional job with their student teaching program,” he said.

McGuire said he hopes the EPIC grant will allow for more academic critique and construction which is something that “the state system is lacking.

“I’m excited for the changes that they will be making, even if they are scary at first. Every change requires adjustment, but I have no doubt that FSU will uphold the standards of the 1839 Lexington Normal School.”

Dargan said this grant is a way for the education department to support the success of education coordinates and teach them how to be effective teachers.  “The education program is quite rigorous in terms of the number of courses that students must take to complete the program. … We want our students to be great teachers for many reasons – for their own success but also because they will be educating our children, which will have a huge impact on all of us.”

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