Graduate School of Education earns Cullen Grant to cultivate better teachers

Teacher working with a young student in a Buffalo Public School as part of UB's Community as Classroom program.

Release Date: May 3, 2018

Suzanne Rosenblith, dean of the Graduate School of Engineering.

Suzanne Rosenblith

“If we can attend to issues of teacher supply and demand, quality, diversity and retention, and do so in a way that is economically sustainable for the district and manageable for the teacher-residents, we will have truly moved the needle on teacher preparation and directly impacted student academic opportunities in urban settings.”
Suzanne Rosenblith, dean, Graduate School of Education
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education’s goal of increasing qualified teachers in the Buffalo Public Schools has received a significant boost thanks to a major grant from the prestigious Cullen Foundation.

The Cullen grant will support a UB program to cultivate a “racially, ethnically, linguistically diverse teaching force” in the city’s schools.

The program reflects Graduate School of Education Dean Suzanne Rosenblith’s academic mission to develop relationships with the community and local schools. Called Cultivating a Racially, Ethnically, Linguistically Diverse Teaching Force in Buffalo, New York: The University at Buffalo Teacher Residency (UBTR), the program has three goals:

  • Increase the number of learner-ready teachers in the City of Buffalo.
  • Diversify the pool of teachers in the City of Buffalo.
  • Increase the number of teachers who stay in the teaching profession for at least five years.

“The goal of this partnership is to help grow the number of qualified teachers in the Buffalo Public Schools, as well as improve the diversity of teachers and increase the teacher retention rate in city schools,” said Rosenblith.

“In doing so, we will be addressing key issues that have been detrimental to the educational success of students in urban school districts and, at the same time, creating a foundation for future success.

“Magnifying the teacher shortage problem is a concern over teacher retention, which in many cases has reached crisis levels,” according to Rosenblith. “Not only are there the obvious issues that arise when districts cannot retain teachers, but with constant turnover schools have difficulty gaining traction on new academic initiatives, thus preventing them from implementing innovations in teaching.”

The UBTR program builds on the model of medical residency, giving students a “clinically intensive pathway” to teacher certification. Those involved in the program will work alongside an expert teacher, serving as “co-teacher” for a full academic year.

According to Rosenblith, while the teacher-residents are in the classroom they will also take university courses to ensure they have the requisite pedagogical knowledge to be effective teachers. Residents receive stipends and tuition support during the residency year.

The tuition scholarship is critical to the success of the program as it enables the Graduate School of Education to recruit a talented and diverse pool of residents who will not have to shoulder the sometimes untenable burden of student loans, Rosenblith said.

“The stipends will allow the residents to focus on this intensive, immersive clinical experience rather than having to hold down a job in the evening to cover their living expenses,” she said. “In other words, the tuition and stipend offered aim to remove the major financial barriers that might detract otherwise qualified and interested candidates from pursuing careers in teaching.”

UB Provost Charles Zukoski praised the program’s potential to directly benefit the community.  

“UB is committed to engaging with Buffalo Public Schools in order to enhance education for students in Buffalo at all levels,” said Zukoski. “This program will lead to better prepared teachers resulting in stronger k-12 education in Buffalo.”

As part of their partnership, the Graduate School of Education and Buffalo Public Schools will conduct long-term studies of the students prepared through this program in order to understand, in depth, the effectiveness of preparing teachers in this manner.

“If we can attend to issues of teacher supply and demand, quality, diversity and retention, and do so in a way that is economically sustainable for the district and manageable for the teacher-residents, we will have truly moved the needle on teacher preparation and directly impacted student academic opportunities in urban settings,” said Rosenblith.

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