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Teachers, principals to take part in Chancellor's Academy at U. of I.

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Forty-two local teachers and 28 school principals are expected to attend the second Chancellor’s Academy, starting Monday (July 31).

The academy, begun last year, is a concentrated professional development program resulting from a partnership between the Champaign and Urbana public schools and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This year’s theme is “Strengthening Literacy Through School Inquiry,” which continues the literacy emphasis of last year’s academy, according to Lizanne DeStefano, the interim dean of the College of Education, which is hosting the program. The overall emphasis is on improving instruction in reading and writing, and chiefly in elementary grades 3-5 and in middle school.

Among the additions to the program this year: a focus on improving reading and writing in the teaching of science and math, hands-on teaching practice with local students, and a separate program strand for K-12 principals, running during the first week of the two-week workshop.

“This year’s academy is building on the success of last year’s,” DeStefano said. “A team of local school leaders and college faculty have worked throughout the year to assess school needs and plan this program. There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm on both sides of the partnership.”

“Strong local schools are vital to the well-being of the Champaign-Urbana community, so I’m delighted to see us expand on last year’s program” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “This partnership allows us to work with the local school districts to both enhance instruction in local classrooms and strengthen the relevance of ongoing research on the campus.”

DeStefano said plans were being made to extend the work of the academy beyond the workshop and into coursework, teacher action-research projects and other collaborative efforts. “Our goal is to bring the resources of the campus and the local schools together to improve educational opportunities for children in the local community,” she said.

Most of the teachers attending are returning from last year and were invited from several district-selected schools, according to Bonnie Armbruster, an education professor and one of the coordinators for this year’s academy. Other participants include math and science teachers from the two districts’ middle schools, she said.

One focus of the workshop for teachers will be in developing their skills under a “teacher inquiry” model of instruction, Armbruster said. In the first week, this will involve looking at performance data on a diverse group of students and developing instruction to meet their needs. In the second week, teachers will instruct local students at Kenwood and Prairie elementary schools in the mornings. Their lessons will be videotaped and those tapes reviewed in the afternoons.

In the administrative program strand, the participants will first look at the nature of leadership in transforming schools, with an emphasis on creating equitable and inclusive schools, according to Carolyn Shields, the education professor who will be leading those sessions. The participants will then look at how to use data and supervision to bring desired instructional changes on a school-wide basis.

Funding for the program comes from the Illinois campus, which pays for faculty time, books and supplies, and a $1,000 stipend for each participating teacher. The school districts provide staff to assist with planning, as well as release time for teachers to attend training activities during the school year.

The coordinators of the teaching strand of this year’s academy, along with Armbruster, are Violet Harris, also an education professor; Jill Flodstrom, from the Champaign School District, and Jean Korder, with the Urbana School District. Barry Swanson, an education lecturer at Illinois, is coordinating the administrative strand.