Geneseo to foster learning at Rochester elementary school

Geneseo’s Ella Cline Shear School of Education is working on a partnership that will assist the Rochester elementary school Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School No. 19. Geneseo will direct its efforts in improving the students’ performance.

Geneseo’s Ella Cline Shear School of Education will enter into a partnership with the Rochester elementary school Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School No. 19 within the next few years. Geneseo’s partnership comes as a result of the $2.5 million School Improvement Grant that School 19 received from the New York State Education Department. School 19 was one of 39 priority schools—a group of the poorest performing schools in the state—to secure such a grant. Before Geneseo can officially partner with School 19, the college will develop an educational partnership organization proposal, which is currently in the works. This proposal must be approved by the Rochester City School District Board of Education, the SUNY system, the New York State Education Department and President Battles.

Geneseo began looking to partner with a Rochester city school nine years ago after a leadership group from the Rochester City School District reached out to the college, according to Dean of the Ella Cline Shear School of Education Anjoo Sikka.

When the two schools form an official partnership, Geneseo will act as the superintendent of School 19, Sikka said. The students, teachers and administrators will remain the same, but Geneseo will focus on improving the performance of the students.

Sikka and professor of education Jane Fowler Morse—who will serve as the liaison between the two schools—said they are already implementing a new format for teaching in the third and fifth grade classrooms at School 19, which will be called Integrated Co-Teaching. During these initial stages of applying the ICOT Model, four teachers are “team teaching” classes. The model will use three teachers in the classroom once the Rochester teachers are familiar with and know how to best utilize the ICOT Model.

Teachers who team-teach classes together will ideally specialize in different content areas—such as math, science, social studies or English—and will teach a mini-lesson to a larger class, according to Morse. Afterward, the class will form smaller groups to work on the lesson in a more personalized way, Morse said.

Morse explained some of the difficulties teachers have faced in the third grade classrooms based on students’ range of reading abilities.

“In these third grade classrooms, scarcely any of the children read at a third grade level, but you will have anywhere from kindergarten to high second grade reading levels in the same class,” Morse said.

Breaking up the classroom will provide more individualized student attention, thus allowing teachers to better serve students’ wide range of abilities, Morse said. She believes that grouping students by academic level or mixing the academic levels of students can serve to improve classroom learning.

“Sometimes you can form homogenous groups so kids can move on if they’re at a higher level and the lower level kids can get more help,” Morse said. “Or you can have heterogeneous groups, because children can learn very well from peer coaching.”

While Geneseo is implementing this new teaching model at School 19, the college does not have an official presence there at the moment.

“While this is all very exciting, Geneseo’s role is just something that we’ve committed to; we do not have a formal presence and there is no partnership agreement in place yet,” Sikka said.

One of the goals of this project is to give teachers a greater voice as to what occurs at their school, according to Sikka. She believes this will put the school at the forefront of change and avoid conflating politics with education.

“We aren’t willing to be going in and taking over, but we will be very engaged partners,” Sikka said.

Morse sees School 19 as a gift, as she seeks to make real change and to seize the opportunity at hand.

“I feel like somebody’s given me a present that I can open and use well,” she said. “On the top of anybody’s bucket list is to use their profession to actually make real change in the world and benefit somebody.”

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