Office of Public Affairs

(315) 312-2265

Jan. 28, 2004

CONTACT: Dr. Barbara Beyerbach, 312-2650


    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 well.

    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.

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