|Dr. Anita Batisti|
Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Educational Partnerships Dr. Anita Batisti discussed the Center’s programs as well as challenges facing education today and her advice for future GSE students.
Can you tell us a little about the Center?
My phrase to describe the Center has always been “we are research-based but action-oriented.” We deal with applied research, which means we get our hands dirty — we’re in the field and we provide services to empowered networks.
Our official goal since our founding in 2006 has been to encourage our partner schools, districts, and governmental agencies to help teachers teach more effectively all students regardless of background.
Our clients are the New York City Department of Education, New York State Education Department, and Districts on Long Island, Westchester, and the greater metropolitan area. Our services run two-ways: some are grant-funded and some are fee for service.
We provide the link to the community. In a way, we are the bridge from higher education to the community and what’s happening. Fordham is working with approximately 100 K-12 schools total with our various programs, especially with the 35 dedicated PSO schools, there are opportunities for internships, research, student teaching placement, counseling placement, and for tutoring.
Because we have partnerships and programs within so many schools, we can really help GSE students find the best fieldwork placement for their areas of interest.
Can you describe the Center’s programs?
Partnership Support Organization (PSO)
Our network currently has 35 K-6 schools in Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. On a daily basis we serve nearly 20,000 students I think what makes our PSO a little different, a little exciting – we are the only private university PSO – the people that join the network get both the regular, operational opportunities and then all this great support from Fordham: research-based programming, workshops, curriculum help, professional development, etc.
We also do a Saturday tutoring program that works exclusively with the United Federal of Teachers (UFT) charter school elementary and high schools. We currently have 24 Fordham students working as tutors.
For the elementary students, the tutoring is in math and literacy because they take the state test. For high school, we had a challenge because students wanted Regents prep. Our grad students are smart, but if you haven’t done Physics or Chemistry or Organic Chemistry for the last couple of years, you’re a little rusty. So we recruited pre-med undergrads to tutor and they have been awesome.
For the undergraduates, we meet at Rose Hill each Saturday. One of the tutors is a certified Ram Van driver and we drive into East New York together. It’s nice for the tutors to get to know each other and build camaraderie. The kids that come for tutoring see their tutors as role models and build relationships with them. It gets very personal with those students – the kids get excited to see their tutors each week.
I hope to expand the tutoring. It benefits both the communities and the Fordham students. The students who attend are doing well, making great strides, taking practice Regents. It’s helping students feel more confident and gives Fordham has a great name in the community.
Multilingual Education Teacher Leader Academy (METLA)
Currently, we’re in partnership with Dr. Cattaro and his Center for Faith-Based Leadership for a new initiative with the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens called the Multilingual Education Teacher Leader Academy (METLA).
In parochial schools, not all teachers are certified in bilingual education so this program models our BETLA program in terms of the academics and workshops. We are the only university in the nation doing this.
Regional Bilingual ESL Resource Network (RBE-RN)
According to the NYC DOE, there are over 200,000 English Language Learners in NYC schools. RBERN is a resource for the professionals working with those 200,000 students. The changing demographics of the greater metropolitan area is the reason we started these bilingual programs.
GSE is in the vanguard of bilingual-bicultural education. Over 30 years ago, we founded the TESOL masters and Dean Hennessy instituted Bilingual School Psychology and we’ve been focused on bilingual-bicultural education ever since.
Our Regional Bilingual ESL Resource Network (RBE-RN) supports and collaborates with schools in creating learning communities centered on issues for English language learners (ELLs). Right now, we support 26 schools in NYC Our staff goes into those schools to provide coaching and mentoring focusing on programming and instruction for ELLs.
RBE-RN also gives a lot of institutes and workshops for anyone in New York who works with English Language Learners (private, charter, parochial and public.)
We have coaching programs in ELL, Literacy, Math and Science. It’s professional development for teachers where we send coaches- seasoned professionals, staff developers, top of the line math teachers, GSE faculty–right into the classroom. They model, they demonstrate, and they team teach.
What’s unique about our coaching is that we don’t have “the Fordham Program.” Other schools have very specific programs and require schools to learn an entirely new program. Instead, we develop best practices and adapt to their existing curriculum. They already have the books. They have the mindset. They’ve been trained in the curriculum.
Instead of changing the existing curriculum, we want to enhance and question “How can you teach more effectively? How can you analyze data?” We are very big on data-driven instruction.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing education today?
Not to sound like a cliché but it’s the educational gap. We find still tremendous amount of minority students and language learners quite far behind their non-minority peers in many academic subjects.
Each parent sends us their best kid. Everyone learns differently. We have to find a way to work with every student to get them to that next step. It’s been a challenge for a long time.
A consultant said to me, “Anita, a lot of these kids have to stay home and watch younger siblings because both parents are working. Some are in homeless shelters. Some have jobs off the books and are working full-time. It’s not that they don’t want to succeed, they have other things happening.” We have to understand the lives of these students. It’s not enough to say that there’s a gap. We have to understand all the variables for the gap and work to fill each one. It will always be a challenge.
What advice do you have for future GSE students?
If you come to Fordham, you will be directly linked with schools throughout NYC and with the greater metropolitan area. You will have opportunities for student teaching, research, and earned income tutoring. We are in the vanguard in multicultural and bilingual education.
If you come here, you are going to have a really wonderful experience. What is unique about Fordham is our sense of community. We are cutting-edge, strong and competitive in our metropolitan environment, but still foster a sense of community. I enjoy meeting with students – they stop by our office and share their experiences. We’re all accessible.
Sometimes I forget that people come from all over and it’s hard to leave your family and go to a different city. And NYC can be a hard place. To be in a place that feels comfortable, where you feel included and cared about, it makes a difference. If you want that, then this is the place for you.