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Queens College Receives $2.6M New York State Grant to Improve Science Teacher Training and Retention

 -- Future High School Teachers Will Engage With Children and Parents
Across All Grade Levels and in Community Settings Beyond Classroom --

FLUSHING, N.Y., October 7, 2011—An innovative QC graduate program to train much-needed secondary school science teachers has been funded for $2.6 million as a three-year “Race to the Top” initiative sponsored by the New York State Education Department. SPIRITAS (Science Pedagogy, Inquiry and Research in Teaching Across Settings), partners Queens College with the New York Hall of Science and five high-needs schools in Queens: Forest Hills, Francis Lewis, Newtown, Long Island City, and Flushing High Schools.

According to Dean of Education Fran Peterman, a current concern in teacher preparation is the amount of time candidates spend in the field—not only teaching, but also engaging with children and their parents. Further, secondary teachers rarely work with children across all grade levels and various settings; they simply work in secondary science classrooms with adolescents. In SPIRITAS, QC education students will develop a different pedagogical model.

“This grant helps all of us at the college think differently about our role as educators and how we prepare teachers,” says Peterman. “These future secondary school teachers will think like scientists as they explore how children learn science over time and in settings beyond the classroom—before they get to high school.” 

A year of planning went into the 18-month program, which will start in the summer of 2012 with 25 secondary school teacher candidates; a second group of 25 will enter the program the following summer. Faculty members teaching in the program will work collaboratively to link curriculum within their courses to that in other courses, as well as to experiences that will engage candidates in mastering content knowledge and teaching practice as they work with children. Rather than simply teach a course over a semester, faculty will teach a course over two semesters—as candidates work with students of different ages and backgrounds. To ensure that the candidates “don’t just book-learn,” coursework will dovetail with field experiences and performance assessments that will take place at the New York Hall of Science, summer school sessions, in the community, and at each of the partnering high schools.

Each candidate will spend one academic year in an internship at one of the partnering high schools, supervised by a mentor teacher who participates in professional development activities with the candidates at the New York Hall of Science as the program begins each
summer. These mentor teachers will play complementary roles in the development of the QC students’ teaching skills as together, faculty members, mentor teachers, museum educators, and
candidates explore teaching and learning across settings.  “This experience will help candidates to be better science teachers as we tighten up the link between the secondary school mentor teachers and college faculty members’ ways of thinking about teaching and becoming a teacher,” says Peterman.

NYU, Fordham University, Mercy College, Syracuse University, SUNY Oswego and Lehman (CUNY) are among the other colleges that received New York State funding to develop “clinically rich” master’s degree programs in teacher preparation.     


The Queens College Education Division is a national leader in urban education--well positioned by its geography, cultural diversity, and reputation for exemplary research and practice in preparing teachers, leaders, and counselors for their careers in urban schools. With 97 registered, rigorous programs preparing teachers and other school professionals for New York State certification, QC educates more teachers in the New York metropolitan and the tri-state area than any other college. The division is continuously redesigning its programs to meet the needs of urban schools while its faculty focuses their research on developing best practices to improve student achievement. Its Center for the Improvement of Education is dedicated to partnering the college with schools and other agencies to provide equitable educational opportunities for culturally, ethnically, and economically diverse populations.

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