School News


SESP Launches Teacher-in-Residence Program
Inquiry Series Dialogue to Address No Child Left Behind
New Student Organization Promotes Minority Empowerment
SESP Ranks Number 7
NU-TEACH Program Gains New Fellows, Award
Vivian Wong Presents Pre-K Research at Capitol Hill Briefing
Project Excite Study of Acceleration Receives Alumnae Grant



Kristen Perkins The School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) takes seriously its role as a leader in improving urban education and training teachers through curricular innovation. To enhance these abilities, a new teacher-in-residence program is awarding a yearlong sabbatical to enable a Chicago Public Schools teacher to become part of the SESP community.

The 2007–08 teacher in residence will be Kristen Perkins, a science teacher and department co-chair at Clemente High School. She has led Clemente's implementation of the inquiry-based environmental science course developed by associate professor Daniel Edelson, as well as participated in professor Louis Gomez's research project infusing literacy supports in science courses.

Perkins will work closely with SESP faculty and students, serving as a resource in studying how children and adults learn and designing new curricula. At the end of the year, she will return to her school to disseminate innovative ideas and lead reform.

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SESP professor Thomas Cook will offer an up-to-date assessment of the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act at an Inquiry Series breakfast dialogue at 8 a.m. on November 7. Reservations for the event, presented by SESP and the Inner-City Teaching Corps at the University Club in Chicago, are being taken at 847/467-2073.

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To enhance and promote the well-being of minority students, SESP undergraduates recently founded a student organization called Promote 360: A Cycle of Minority Empowerment and Support. The group is dedicated to supporting the social, academic and professional well-being of minority and underrepresented students within SESP.

Founding officers of Promote 360 include (front) Shari Lewis, Alex Sims, Tabitha Bentley, Monica Guerrero, Keenya Hofmaier, (back) Jeremiah Tillman, Cass Chen and Corey Winchester
Founding officers of Promote 360 include (front) Shari Lewis, Alex Sims, Tabitha Bentley, Monica Guerrero, Keenya Hofmaier, (back) Jeremiah Tillman, Cass Chen and Corey Winchester.

Founding president Cassandra Chen (BS07) and incoming president Tabitha Bentley started the organization because of their interest in race and diversity issues. Chen explains, "We want to make sure that students can find community here." Bentley says, "Northwestern is a challenging university for all undergrads. Yet it can be even more challenging when you possess some dissimilarities with the majority of students you interact with on a daily basis. This is exactly where P360 comes in. We hope to be that resource minority and underrepresented students rely on to aid them in various aspects of their endeavors at Northwestern."

The group is planning programs related to career exploration, academic skill building and social support for SESP students, along with mentoring for Chicago high school students. Promote 360 also intends to develop long-term big brother/big sister mentorships, as well as connections with Northwestern alumni, faculty members and community leaders.

Newly elected officers for 2007–08 are Tabitha Bentley, president; Janet Rocha, vice president;Aaron Beswick, advocacy chair; Monica Guerrero, secretary and historian; Keenya Hofmaier and Kaitlin Barancik, networking co-chairs; Shari Lewis, mentoring chair; Alex Sims, community/homebase building chair; Jeremiah Tillman, outreach chair; and Corey Winchester, treasurer and fundraising chair.

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Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy ranks number seven in the nation, according to the 2008 ranking of graduate schools of education by U.S.News & World Report. SESP consistently ranks in the top 10 schools of education in the nation.

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The NU-TEACH alternative certification program helps to attract strong and committed teachers to Chicago classrooms by preparing highly qualified career changers for teaching. Five interns in this year's program have been awarded fellowships through the new Ruth J. Simmons Fellowship and the longstanding Scott Fellowship.

New Simmons and Scott Fellows are (front) Megan Gusloff, Laura Vroman, David Epstein, (back) Leslie Strauss and Melissa Wegner. NU-TEACH facilitator Sam Dyson receives a Golden Apple Award
Left: New Simmons and Scott Fellows are (front) Megan Gusloff, Laura Vroman, David Epstein, (back) Leslie Strauss and Melissa Wegner. Right: NU-TEACH facilitator Sam Dyson receives a Golden Apple Award.

The newly selected Simmons Fellows for 2007–08 are David Epstein and Leslie Strauss, both of Chicago and both in secondary biology. Scott Fellows for 2007–08 are Megan Gusloff of Elmhurst, secondary biology; and Laura Vroman of Chicago, secondary biology; and Melissa Wegner of Chicago, elementary education. The new Simmons Fellowship was established with a gift from the Oak Brook Bank Charitable Trust at the direction of Susan Gecht Rieser (BS70) and Richard M. Rieser, Jr.

The NU-TEACH program also received acknowledgement for the quality of its instructors with a recent teaching award. Sam Dyson, a facilitator for NU-TEACH and a physics teacher at Chicago's Walter Payton High School, received a 2007 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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Vivian Wong How effective are state-funded programs for pre-kindergarten children? At a policy briefing on June 18 in Washington, D.C., doctoral student Vivian Wong presented the findings of her study with professor Thomas Cook of five state pre-K programs. The briefing was entitled "New Research on Preschool Education: What Can We Learn from the States?"

Wong and Cook examined the effectiveness of state programs in Michigan, New Jersey, West Virginia, Oklahoma and South Carolina related to three areas of cognitive development. Their data came from recent research by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

The researchers found that states' pre-K programs did have positive effects on children's print awareness, early mathematics and receptive vocabulary skills, although the magnitude of effects varied by state and outcome. Overall, the largest and most reliable effects were found in print awareness, which taps into children's ability to recognize letters, associate sounds with letters and distinguish print from pictures.

State-funded pre-K programs are rapidly expanding, although their quality varies tremendously, according to Wong. Since 1980, the number of states with programs has more than doubled, and by last year 38 states served nearly one million children, surpassing the number of children enrolled in Head Start.

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A new grant from the Alumnae of Northwestern University will support research into what makes acceleration effective for academically talented minority students. This in-depth investigation will focus on urban youths' perceptions of academic acceleration in mathematics.

The project is being undertaken through the Center for Talent Development's Project Excite program, which is designed to help minority gifted students prepare for advanced tracks in high school. Research assistant professor Seon-Young Lee will conduct interviews and examine academic records as she seeks information on beliefs, attitudes, obstacles and facilitating factors related to acceleration.

A new grant from the Alumnae of Northwestern University will support research into what makes acceleration effective for academically talented minority students

Very little research has been done with low-income or minority students and acceleration, especially how attitudes affect the success of acceleration, according to Lee. "To parents, educators, researchers and policymakers, this research will suggest a better way to apply acceleration efficiently for many talented but underserved students commensurate with their needs," she says.

Funding for Alumnae of Northwestern University grants comes primarily from its continuing education program, comprised of classes taught by Northwestern faculty to community residents.

A new grant from the Alumnae of Northwestern University will support research into what makes acceleration effective for academically talented minority students
Photos by GABRIELLA FIELDS

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By Marilyn Sherman