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this month's articles

New Basketball Coach Signs On

Two-time New York State Federation Champion in the high school ranks joins our ranks. [more…]

CEURE Travels Far and Fast

CEURE’s ultimate mission is to provide a highly qualified, certified teacher for every classroom that needs one, with special attention on “high needs” schools. [more…]

New Guy in Town

“I’m excited about being part of the rich legacy of this college,” Rochon told the Insider. [more…]

‘What Price Freedom?’

Commemorating the Niagara Movement Centennial [more…]

From the Editor

Notice anything different in this issue of the Insider? [more…]

CEURE Travels Far and Fast

BY MARY A. DURLAK

Buffalo State students learn to teach in urban, rural, and suburban classrooms.

At one school in Buffalo, most of the students in grades one through eight improved their reading scores by at least a grade level.

That’s just one success story that the Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education, or CEURE (pronounced surrey), has to tell. Interim director John Siskar points to many more, including a program called Summer in the City, which has put tutors in the Buffalo Public Schools for the last three years.

“Last year,” said Siskar, “100 Buffalo State students worked in 10 schools with students in grades four and eight, touching about 800 schoolchildren.” Other programs include Girl Power, which helped all the girls in one eighth-grade class pass their final math and English exams; a special class at one high school, whose students beat the district’s passing rates for the Math A exam by more than 20 percent; and IMARS (Improving Mathematics Achievement in Rural Schools), which provided standards-based teaching aids to teachers who took part.

Still, CEURE’s ultimate mission is to provide a highly qualified, certified teacher for every classroom that needs one, with special attention on “high needs” schools. High-needs schools are mostly urban and rural school districts; both have a hard time recruiting teachers in the first place and keeping them in the second. More than half of new teachers in high-needs schools leave the teaching profession within three years.

Continuing a Tradition

When Buffalo State was founded as a normal school in 1871, its mission was to provide qualified teachers for the “common schools” of the day. Back then, Buffalo State set out to provide teachers with subject knowledge and teaching skills. CEURE continues that proud tradition today, focusing on high-needs schools in both urban and rural school districts.

“What CEURE has done,” Siskar said, “is help many different groups on campus serve high-needs schools more effectively.” CEURE has 40 partnerships that involve a total of 125 schools in 10 Western New York counties.

“It’s hard to define a partnership,” Siskar said, “because each one is different. CEURE is unique: we work with each school partner to identify its own specific needs, and to learn how we can help them in a way that also benefits our students.”

CEURE uses the college’s award-winning Professional Development Schools (PDS) model as much as it can. Among other things, PDS schools host Buffalo State classes, giving the college’s students direct in-the-school experience.

Recruit, Retain, Support

What it means to be in the classroom, especially the classrooms of urban schools, is different from what some teachers-in-training expect. “I always pictured myself teaching at a suburban elementary school,” said one Buffalo State student. “But, boy, was I wrong. I would love to be an urban teacher.”

She changed her mind after participating in a program designed to acquaint preservice teachers with the reality of urban schools. However, CEURE is not just trying to convince students to consider urban and rural school districts; it’s also working very hard to find students attending those schools and recruit them into the teaching profession.

Last year, CEURE worked with 251 students in 28 middle and high schools in a program encouraging them to consider a teaching career. CEURE is also implementing an “urban teacher academy model,” a multifaceted approach to recruiting education majors through future-teachers clubs, shadowing programs, peer tutoring, and the like. Liberty Partnerships, another campus initiative to retain and graduate at-risk high school students, is a major resource for these programs. Another effort is the “Be a Hero, Be a Teacher” learning community for Buffalo State freshmen interested in becoming teachers.

Follow the Money

One measure of CEURE’s effectiveness is the willingness of various entities to fund projects sponsored by CEURE. In four years, CEURE has received $4.1 million in outside funding; it has helped its partner schools get another $8 million. The money comes from the State Legislature, Congress, the college, and public and private grants.

For example, CEURE obtained a PT3 (Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. “Where other schools were using PT3 grants to introduce teachers to computers and software,” said Siskar, “we used the money to set up distance-learning classes.” In one such class, Buffalo State students observed a teacher at work in a charter school. Afterward, they used a video hookup to discuss the class dynamics with her.

“The advantage,” said Siskar, “is that the faculty member who’s leading the discussion, the teacher who’s teaching, and the students who are observing are all looking at the same thing. It’s easier to show what works and why.” Buffalo State’s first PT3 grant was for $600,000; the second was for $1.2 million.

From Pavement to Pastures

One of CEURE’s unique characteristics is its recognition that rural school districts are as hard-pressed as their urban counterparts. Many rural districts use their Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) as a central source for services such as faculty development, psychologists for students, and information for school board members and district administrators. For example, the Genesee Valley BOCES serves 22 school districts in four counties.

Siskar and Paul Theobald, who serves CEURE as a professor of elementary education and reading and the Woods-Beals Endowed Chair in Urban and Rural Education, met with educators and community members from Olean to Leroy, looking for ways to engage rural school districts. They used BOCES centers as their starting point.

“It’s been rewarding,” said Siskar. “I got involved with CEURE when it was just four people sitting around a table. In four years, we’ve touched—without exaggerating—tens of thousands of students in elementary and secondary schools in Western New York.”

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SEPTEMBER 2005/VOL. 04, NO. 1
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