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Chicago, Phila., N.Y. To Share $10 Million For Teacher Training

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The DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund last week announced nearly $10 million in grants for teacher professional-development programs in three urban districts.

The four-year, $3.05 million grants to three partnerships in Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia are for teacher training in student-centered pedagogy.

The New York City-based foundation said it hopes its new "students at the center" grant program will help train teachers to abandon traditional 40-minute lectures for more-active approaches in the classroom, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and hands-on learning.

DeWitt Wallace also awarded a $554,781 grant to the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass., an international research and development group, to link the sites through conferences, newsletters, and an electronic-mail network. (See chart, this page.)

"Over the last 10 years, there's been a general realization that some of the leading-edge reforms have not paid sufficient attention to the professional-development needs of teaching and teachers across the career continuum," said David Haselkorn, the president of Recruiting New Teachers, a nonprofit group in Belmont, Mass., dedicated to recruiting a more diverse teaching workforce. But more recently, he said, there has been a growing interest among funders in developing the capacity of teachers.

On a 'Local Track'

"We tend to fund national programs, and we tend to fund national organizations," Jane Quinn, DeWitt Wallace's program director, said at a Washington luncheon last week."We thought it was time to build a local track to the national grants and that this was a logical next step." Since 1990, the foundation has awarded about $32 million in grants for professional development for teachers.

While school districts spend billions in public funds each year on staff development, Ms. Quinn noted, too often it is "too light in its touch to make a difference." The foundation hopes that the three sites will serve as models for how to reallocate some of that money.

Diane Rigden of the Washington-based Council for Basic Education suggested that it will be important to ensure that student-centered training is closely tied to efforts to help teachers become more knowledgeable in their subject matter and in assessing student learning.

"One of my concerns is that sometimes the teachers will learn hands-on techniques and the kids will have wonderful, interactive exercises in the classroom, but the teachers don't know how to link that to whatever concepts they are trying to teach," she said.

Grant Breakdown

The DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund late last month announced $9.7 million in professional-development grants to groups in Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia.

Chicago: $3.05 million

Groups:
The Center for City Schools at National-Louis University, with the Chicago Algebra Project, the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, the Small Schools Workshop, the Illinois Writing Project, and the Chicago Metro History Project.

Focus:
24 schools serving about 20,000 students; emphasis on middle school teachers.

New York City: $3.05 million

Groups:
New York's Institute for Literacy Studies at Lehman College, City University of New York, with the American Social History Project, the Educational Video Center, the Teachers College Writing and Reading Projects, the Workshop Center at City College, and Youth Communication.

Focus:
27 schools serving about 16,000 students; to include school-based study groups for teachers to discuss classroom practices and related issues with their peers.

Philadelphia: $3.05 million

Groups:
The Philadelphia Education Fund with Beaver College, the Franklin Institute, and the Philadelphia Writing Project.

Focus:
27 schools serving about 21,000 students; to include parental involvement in activities such as workshops on methods of student-centered teaching.

In addition, the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass., an international research and development organization, will receive a $554,781 grant over four years to link the three cities through national conferences, electronic mail, and newsletters.

SOURCE: DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund.

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