OSWEGO -- Project SMART at SUNY Oswego long ago
burst its boundaries as a professional development program for local
teachers who came to campus for a summer institute. The project's
innovative strategies of outreach and networking recently got a boost
in the form of a 37 percent increase in its funding base.
Last year Dr. Barbara Beyerbach and Dr. Patricia Russo of
Oswego's School of Education, co-directors of the 15-year-old Project
SMART, submitted a grant proposal for another five-year cycle of
funding under the state teacher quality enhancement program that is
supported by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The project has received $259,578 for the current
academic year, Beyerbach said, over $70,000 more than last year. That
figure will be the project's funding base for the next four years as
Project SMART has evolved over the years into a
year-round professional development program for teachers in school
districts in Oswego County, Syracuse and New York City that also
involves their pupils as well as SUNY Oswego faculty and students in
the School of Education and a number of business partners.
"It's much more field based," Beyerbach explained.
"It's teacher led and collaborative."
A big reason for project's expansion has been the
inception of SUNY Oswego's Center for Urban Schools, which is closely
allied with Project SMART. This year Russo stepped down as co-director
of the project to direct the Center for Urban Schools. Marcia Burrell,
another faculty member in Oswego's School of Education, stepped in as
SMART co-director with Beyerbach.
The focal point of much of Project SMART's work is
teams of teachers. Teachers form inquiry groups in their school to
study particular problems or issues facing them and receive a helping
hand from professors at Oswego.
At Delaware Elementary School in Syracuse, for
instance, teachers are investigating English as a second language and
bilingual education and how parents and schools determine which path
children take. They work with Dr. Jean Ann and Dr. Bruce Long Peng of
Oswego's program in teaching English to speakers of other languages.
At Henninger High School in Syracuse, an inquiry
group of teachers is examining how science instruction works within the
context of their block scheduling system, in consultation with Dr. Eric
Olson of Oswego.
Beyond the inquiry groups of teachers, the
partnerships that Project SMART and the Center for Urban Schools have
with schools extends to field placement of student teachers and
teaching assistants from the college in the schools and field trips for
pupils from the schools to the college.
The most elaborate example of the latter is an
annual exchange of pupils from Middle School 56 in New York City and
Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Middle School in rural Oswego County. "They
visit each other in their schools, and they visit each other in their
communities, and they do it together, and then both groups come to
campus," Russo said. Besides broadening the children's horizons, the
experience introduces them to the idea of pursuing teaching as a
career, she said.
Project SMART's collaborative nature provides a two-way
street to those involved. Beyerbach, for instance, works with
experienced educators from a number of Oswego County school districts
who examine how SUNY Oswego's students perform in the classrooms where
they student teach with an eye to suggesting revisions in the college's
education courses to improve its preparation of future teachers.
Working closely with teachers helps college faculty
to keep their understanding of pedagogical theory closely tied to
practice. "We get a lot for what we give," Beyerbach said.