Monday, November 16, 2015

Center for Education in the Community at Salem State University

I recently sat down with Wendy Pearson, staff associate at the Salem State University School of Education’s Center for Education in the Community (CEC) to discuss the contributions that CEC makes to professional development for teachers and school administrators. "We are proud that many Salem State School of Education alumni are employed as teachers, principals and administrators in the region’s public school districts and community based educational organizations," Ms. Pearson told me.

Headquartered on the third floor of the Sullivan Building, the CEC program provides professional development, training and consultation to educators. The CEC also collaborates with school districts and community based organizations to apply for and manage grants and funding support for innovative educational initiatives in the region.  

The CEC offers courses and workshops targeted to the professional development needs of educators in schools and community based organizations. The CEC arranges to offer district-based graduate degree, licensure, and advanced certificate programs to meet the needs of schools and educators for high quality continuing education and to respond to the changing academic and other needs of students in PreK – 16 education.  

For example, many schools in the region report recent increases in the number of students whose first language is other than English. This year, School of Education faculty with expertise in teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) are meeting with Salem Public School teachers and staff in a series of seminars and “professional learning communities” (PLCs) to share and discuss effective strategies and teaching methods to support students learning the language skills necessary to progress academically. 

A highlight for educators is the bi-annual Best Practices in Education Conference. The Best Practices in Education Conference was developed in cooperation with and is co-sponsored by the Friends of the School of Education a group that includes many active School of Education alumni. Held now for seven successful years the conference features over 20 workshops instructed by faculty and other experts in the field. The conference is held on a Saturday to facilitate maximum teacher and administrator attendance. 

Planning is already underway for the November 2016 conference. Anticipated topics will include English as a Second Language (ESL) and Special Education. Information regarding the 2016 event will be published before the end of the 2015/16 school year in June. Interested parties may contact Ms. Pearson (, 978.542.7448).

Another upcoming event of note is the Salem State School of Education networking event that is being held Thursday, November 19th at FINZ Restaurant on Derby Street in Salem from 3pm – 5pm. The free event is free. Those wishing to attend are asked to register at the following link:

Other programs managed through the center includes help to educators in applying for and managing grants for education. Recent successes include helping schools apply for, obtain and manage:

  • Race to the Top -Early Learning Challenge Grants and the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA), a federal/state funded program focused on improving educator knowledge and skill in the assessment of young children’s development and learning in order to better target instruction to meet their learning needs.
  • The Region 3 Partnership, Educator & Provider Support Grant (MA Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Educator and Provider Support (EPS), currently in its sixth year.  Public and private universities and community colleges in the Northeast and Metro-West region partner to offer college courses and continuing education opportunities to assist the early childhood education workforce (PreK – 3rd grade) to attain bachelor and master degrees i and improve their teaching skills.
  • The CEC also partners with several regional colleges and community colleges on the statewide, grant funded Massachusetts College Access Challenge program. In a joint initiative of the MA Department of Higher Education (DHE) and the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the CEC provides information and support on how to access and succeed in college to middle school and high school students and their families and to freshman college students on campus.  The goal of this successful program is to increase the number of underrepresented, low income and first generation students who apply to, are accepted to, and succeed in post-secondary education. 

Students from schools including the Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Lynn, Collins Middle School in Salem, and high school students from Salem and Malden Public Schools have participated in faculty led programming on campus and in the high schools.  Student support continues on campus with first year college students at Salem State and other public and private universities and community colleges.

Through these programs middle and high school students visit college campuses to learn about the college experience and to observe college classes. They learn what high school courses best prepare students for specific career opportunities. They tour libraries, dormitories, meet with financial aid and admissions counselors and get help writing their college entry essays.

This program also funds Transition Support Specialists and programming at Salem State and other colleges and universities.  The specialist/advisors meet regularly with students from under-represented groups, both individually and in small groups, and provide advising and support to assist students with the academic and other challenges of college. The program is concluding its fifth year. Services provided include:

  • Career exploration and what educational preparation is required for specific careers
  • how to find the college with the “best fit” for careers and individuals;
  • how to apply to college; and
  • how to find best financial aid for their circumstances.
Salem State University is deeply committed to increasing access to college for low income and first generation students including Latino, Far East, Haitian and other underrepresented groups. As the grant is about to expire, Salem State has demonstrated its commitment to sustaining this support and has integrated the program into campus support services to continue to assist freshman students to succeed in college and prepare for careers.
    Other services provided by the CEC include professional development to school districts on:
    • Special Education issues;
    • English as a Second Language (ESL);
    • hosting workshops and Professional Learning Communities (PLC); and
    • general support such as providing someone who can come teach the teachers.
    The CEC offers off-campus School of Education graduate certificate programs to meet school and teacher needs on topics including Advanced Graduate Study in Autism Spectrum Disorders. This certificate program includes four courses for teachers to better assess and meet the needs of increasing numbers of students on the autism spectrum.

    Recognizing that it can be difficult for teachers to make the commute to the Salem State campus, courses are offered at schools in the region. Ms. Pearson said, “We’ll come to the teachers in the district.” She continued, "If there are enough participants in a particular location a financial discount may also be offered."  Programs have been offered to teachers in Revere, Chelsea and Amesbury public schools.

    The School Education was granted funding from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education for “Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment” (ICE) to develop career exploration and college programming to help students with disabilities who are unprepared to enter college or the workforce. Programming will serve students 18-22 years old with autism spectrum disorders and/or intellectual disabilities who have completed high school studies, but need further “transition” assistance to succeed in post-secondary education and careers. Interested alumni educators may join the ICE “Lunch and Learn” panel discussion on this developing program at the Ellison Campus Center at Salem State on Friday, November 20th from 11:30am – 1pm.  Additional information is online at

    Beginning in fall of 2016, the Salem State School of Education will offer a “4 + 1” degree and licensure program. Integrated Bachelor and Master of Education (MEd) degree programs will be offered to students pursuing Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education teacher licensure in Elementary, Early Childhood and Secondary Education content areas. Instead of the traditional two years on top of four, participants will be able to complete the required coursework and fieldwork in five years with the opportunity to earn a second educator license in another high need content area.

    Examples of the second area of concentration include: Special Education, ESL, and Reading Specialist. Salem State is the first Massachusetts state university to offer this innovative, integrated program. The concept of the integrated bachelors/masters degree program is an emerging national trend and was enthusiastically embraced by regional school administrators attending focus groups and interviews, including significant alumni participation.  

    The School of Education is also a recipient of a planning grant to offer help to students with disabilities who find themselves unprepared for college or the workforce explore careers. The program will offer an opportunity to earn college credits and learn the skills needed to enter the workforce for 18 to 22 year old students who have completed high school studies and require more transition support to enter post-secondary education and the workforce. Students included may also require help socially or have workforce preparation needs. 

    As the above proves, the Center for Education in the Community (CEC) at Salem State University is yet another reason for our Salem State alumni community to look back to our alma mater with pride. For those in our community who are educators, I hope the information above leads you back to resources that may help the students you serve and in your careers. For all our community I hope this serves as yet another reminder of how Salem State continues to be a resource to enrich our alumni lives. 

    I invite you to participate in this conversation and watch for the next edition of Viking Voices.

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