JSU seeks partnership with Anniston schools
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Oct 29, 2013 | 3532 views |  0 comments | 86 86 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville State University wants to help the Anniston school system improve learning in city classrooms while better training its own education students, JSU officials told the school board today.

John Hammett, dean of JSU’s College of Education and Professional Studies, and several of his faculty attended the Anniston City Board of Education's work session today to discuss a partnership proposal. Through the program, the board would develop a formal agreement with JSU, eventually allowing college education students to work with Anniston teachers in the classroom.

The board made no decision on the proposal during the work session.

Hammett said the success of the program would depend on the collaboration of all involved.

“This is not us coming in and telling you what to do,” Hammett said. "This is the teacher, the university professor and the school students ... all three working together to improve student learning."

Anniston schools Superintendent Joan Frazier said the program would benefit the school system and the university.

"The uniqueness about this partnership is it focuses on the needs of our classroom students as well as your university students," Frazier said.

Hammett said the next step, if the board eventually decides to move ahead with the agreement, would be for his faculty to talk with Anniston teachers to develop the specifics of the agreement, tailoring it to the needs of each classroom and school in the city. Hammett said the goal is to begin the program at the start of the 2014-15 Anniston school year.

Although the board did not vote on the proposal because it was in a work session and not an official meeting, each member expressed interest in the idea and in working more with JSU in general.

That interest mirrors similar support for the idea in the city at large. According to a survey conducted earlier this year by JSU's Center for Economic Development and Business Research and paid for by The Star, more than three-fourths of the 581 respondents said they wanted JSU and other colleges to work with the school system to improve students' outcomes.

Ronda Ray, director of clinical experiences at JSU, said that having two teachers in a classroom instead of one typically has a positive effect on student performance.

"Our students obviously will benefit from being in a classroom experience," Ray said. "But research shows that pre-12 grade classes can have better test scores when they have two teachers."

Hammett said the program will also provide valuable research for the university.

"It gives us the benefit to do research in the classroom ... this gets our folks in the classroom to study the best way to teach," he said.

Hammett said JSU had tried to set up a similar partnership agreement with the Jacksonville city school system several years ago. However, the plan fell through due to changes in faculty at Jacksonville and JSU, he said.

Jordan Barkley, associate dean of JSU’s College of Education and Professional Studies, said Anniston is a great choice for the program, providing JSU students with a variety of teaching experience.

"It provides diverse learning styles, ethnic diversity and several school types," Barkley said.

Also during the work session, the board heard presentations from two firms offering to develop strategic plans for the school system. The board interviewed another firm earlier in the year. The board first looked into obtaining a strategic plan for the school system about a year ago, said Donna Ross, board president.

Ross said a strategic plan will help the board achieve some of its top goals, including improving student learning and improving the school system's relationship with the community.

"I personally want our schools to be the best in the country," Ross said. "But when you fail to plan you plan to fail."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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