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University and local schools start new summer academy for teachers

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Teachers in several Champaign and Urbana public schools will have a new opportunity for professional development starting this summer, as a result of a partnership between local school districts and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Chancellor’s Summer Academy, to be held from July 25 to Aug. 5, will provide 40 teachers with a concentrated two-week professional development program coordinated by the university’s College of Education.

The academy will give groups of teachers from district-selected schools the opportunity to develop teaching strategies that address pressing needs, according to Susan Fowler, the dean of the U. of I. College of Education. As part of the two weeks, the groups will meet as teams that also include college faculty partners.

The collaboration will continue as a sustained effort through the school year and beyond. One goal of the program is for the teams to then work with other teachers in their respective schools, thereby enhancing instruction throughout each school, Fowler said.

“Our schools are vital to the well-being of the Champaign-Urbana community,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “Working with the local school districts to address pressing needs is an essential responsibility of the university. We hope the Summer Academy will achieve two valuable outcomes: enhancing instruction in local classrooms and strengthening the relevance of ongoing research on the campus.”

“The College of Education is extremely excited about the Summer Academy,” Fowler said. “Our faculty are looking forward to working together with local teachers and administrators to help improve the educational experience for children in the community.”

Funding for the program will come from the Illinois campus, which will pay for faculty time and a $1,000 stipend for each participating teacher. The school
districts – Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana District 116 – will provide staff to assist with planning, as well as release time for teachers to attend training activities during the school year.

Education professors Nancy Hertzog and Kay Stahl are leading the planning efforts for the college for this summer and through the next school year.

The training topics each year will be determined by the school districts, based on the most pressing needs in the selected schools, Fowler said. The first academy will focus on language and literacy enrichment in elementary grades 3-5 and middle school.

Topics will include strategies to enhance reading across the curriculum, for teaching English as a second language and for instructing special education students; how to use assessment data in meeting individual students’ needs, and reading in the context of the “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

Each topic will be addressed in sessions led by both education faculty members and local teachers, giving each team the opportunity to build an approach that fits within the context of its respective school.

Future academies may address other subject areas, such as science and math.

Also part of the program will be ongoing evaluations by the schools, designed to assess the influence of the summer academy on teacher practices and student learning, and to recommend changes for improvement.

“We hope this professional development initiative is just the beginning of a sustained partnership that grows with each subsequent year,” Fowler said.