Friday, October 17, 2014

COE Formalizes Partnership With Nerge Elementary School

Brian Lawson, Nerge Principal, and Tom Philion,
Dean of the College of Education, sign the MOU.
On Wednesday, October 15th, the College of Education and Nerge Math and Science Academy, in Schaumburg, IL, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize a partnership that has been in development over the past year.

The goal of the agreement is to work together to prepare passionate and innovative elementary teachers who have expertise in math and science education.  The elementary education program will select highly qualified teacher candidates who will then have the opportunity to complete all of their field experiences at Nerge.  Nerge teachers will help the RU teacher candidates to teach to new standards and teacher evaluation models, and hopefully complete their student teaching experiences at Nerge.  RU aims to better prepare its teacher candidates for the demands of 21st century teaching, and Nerge and District 54 hope to create a pool of new teachers who can hit the ground running with respect to improving student learning in math and science education.

Currently, two RU elementary teacher candidates are student teaching at Nerge, and one recent graduate and former student teacher is filling in for a teacher on maternity leave.  Two alumni also are full-time teachers at the school.  In the future, the COE and Nerge will collaborate to determine the ideal number of RU teacher candidates to participate in the partnership program.

The COE's Elementary Education Program Director, Ken King, and the Principal at Nerge, Brian Lawson, are the chief architects of the agreement.  Over the next several years, they will explore ways in which RU faculty might support the professional development and learning goals at Nerge.

The partnership was facilitated by a $100,000 grant that the College of Education received last year from the Searle Funds of the Chicago Community Trust.  The main focus of the grant is the redesign of the elementary education program.  With significant input from Brian Lawson, several teachers at Nerge, other school partners in the Chicago Public Schools, College of Arts and Sciences faculty, and other faculty in the College of Education, the elementary education faculty--Judy Gouwens, Ken King, Byoung Kim, and Elizabeth Meadows--have updated curricula and field experiences, and re-conceived the structure of the program.  Partnerships with high quality schools enrolling diverse student learners will be at the center of the new program.

The start date for the new elementary education program is Fall 2015, pending approval from the Illinois State Board of Education.  The COE hopes to sign several other partnership agreements by the end of the current academic year.

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