Fairfield University announces new cutting-edge certificate of advanced study reading & language development program to address widening achievement gap


A tuition-free fellowship program – complete with living stipends and health insurance – is available for select fulltime students.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (May 8, 2015) – Only 20 percent of Connecticut fourth graders from minority, poor or otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds are reading at grade level. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the state ranks 50th in the nation in closing the achievement gap. To address this gap and promote social equity, Fairfield University announces a cutting-edge Reading and Language Development program that will prepare current PreK-3 teachers to become master reading teachers, providing their students with skills critical to their educational futures.

Administered through the University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP), the certificate of advanced study (CAS) in Reading and Language Development is now accepting part-time students for Fall 2015. A select group of 10 fulltime students currently teaching in partner school districts will be accepted for the new Anne E. Fowler Literacy Fellowship (AFLF) program. Fellows will receive tuition, a living stipend and health insurance, and take a one-year leave to study full time and complete the CAS program.

The University, in partnership with the Anne E. Fowler Foundation, created the fellowship to prepare teachers to significantly raise literacy levels among low-performing elementary school populations. The fellowships will be awarded annually beginning in September 2015, and are funded, in part, by a gift from the North Haven, Conn.-based Fowler Foundation and a grant from The Grossman Family Foundation of Cos Cob, Conn.

“We’ve long known that reading deficits manifest very early in a student’s life,” said Robert Hannafin, Ph.D., GSEAP dean. “If not remediated, these deficits prevent students from learning increasingly complex – yet foundational – concepts, thus widening the achievement gap. We are very excited that the ‘Fowler Fellows’ will have the tools and support necessary to make a difference with these neediest of learners.”

The University is well positioned to provide this support. Already housed at Fairfield is the Connecticut Writing Project, which is dedicated to strengthening the teaching and learning of writing for both students and teachers. These programs together offer a unique, comprehensive approach to reading and language development.

“The Fowler Literacy Fellows and part-time students will learn and apply evidence-based literacy practices that support all students as they become proficient readers and strive to reach their full potential,” said Anne Campbell, Ph.D., director of TESOL and Bilingual Education who designed the program with David Zera, Ph.D., GSEAP’s director of Special Education, Gayle Bogel, Ph.D., and Margie Gillis, Ed.D. They worked to align course content with the International Reading Association standards and the Knowledge and Practice Standards of the International Dyslexia Association. Dr. Zera noted that “scientific research-based practices are the foundation of the program” and he is looking forward to the first cadre of students to begin this September.

“Fairfield has been chosen to take the lead in this important work because of the very high standards that we have established for teacher training, and our existing commitment to literacy training and teacher mentorship in our neighboring communities,” said University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. “Educating our youth and giving them what they need to reach their full potential is the most effective way to ensure a brighter future for all of us.”

The Anne E. Fowler Literacy Fellows program, named for the late Haskins Laboratories reading researcher and co-author of Connecticut’s Blueprint for Reading Achievement, will recruit teachers initially from Bridgeport, Stamford, East Haven, West Haven and other partner districts. The program will provide teachers with three semesters of coursework and field practica, as well as full tuition, living stipends and health insurance. Partner districts have agreed to offer teachers a leave of absence after which the teachers will return to their districts ready to use their advanced training. Graduates also agree to assessment and professional development for three years after graduation and will complete their capstone projects on a part-time basis. The program welcomes partnerships with additional Connecticut school districts.

“There is no more important job than teaching a child to read,” said Margie Gillis, Ed.D., president and founder of Literacy How, Inc. “I have worked with Connecticut’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus to support the implementation of some of the best reading legislation in the country. I believe that the program will provide essential knowledge about how literacy develops as well as guidance in translating research into effective classroom practice – Anne E. Fowler’s and Literacy How’s long-held vision for empowering teaching excellence so that every child learns to read by grade three. All data will be transparent so that we are held accountable for the results. We are honored that so many equally committed partners have joined together to offer evidence-based educator preparation.”

Linda Franciscovich of The Grossman Family Foundation, said The Foundation was pleased to be a part of this innovative approach to teacher preparation that aligns best practices with rigorous metrics.

The application deadline for the full-time Fellowship program is May 26th. Applications for the part-time program will be reviewed through July for fall 2015.

For more information on the program, contact Dr. David Zera at dzera@fairfield.edu, Dr. Anne Campbell at acampbell@faifield.edu or visit www.fairfield.edu/literacy.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 11, 2015

Vol. 47, No. 249

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