Education grant for underrepresented groups

Oswego State’s School of Education was awarded a five year, $1.63 million grant through the New York State Department of Education to upgrade their Teacher Opportunity Corps program.

“TOC is a New York State grant funded program and was created to increase the number of underrepresented groups in the teaching profession, as well as for their retention, including in areas of high-need schools with a shortage of teachers,” said Nichole Brown, Oswego State’s placement director for the School of Education and principal investigator for the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

The grant will award the School of Education with $325,000 per year for their TOC program.

According to Brown, the grant can be called TOC II, while in the years past it was TOC I.

“Both of the grants overall goal is around increasing the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals entering and being retained in teaching fields,” Brown said.

TOC II is a part of NYSED’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, unlike TOC I, which was not, Brown said. The My Brother’s Keeper initiative was created in 2014 by former President Barack Obama as the My Brother’s Keeper task force at the federal level.

“The task force was an interagency effort focused on closing and eliminating the opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color so that all young people have the chance to reach their full potential,” said Brown.

With the 2016-2017 New York State Budget, New York was the first to enact the My Brother’s Keeper initiative into law, resulting in $20 million being put into the budget to support boys and young men of color.

According to Brown, sixteen higher educational institutions, including Oswego State, were collectively awarded $3 million for TOC with the college receiving $1.63 million,

“Students covered by TOC II range from freshmen to graduate students pursuing a degree in education, who will receive financial, academic, social and professional support,” said Pat Russo, Oswego State’s director of the Center for Urban Schools and a professor in the School of Education.

“Social support could include helping the students find their identity and place on campus, as well as to build camaraderie between the students in the program,” Brown said.

“One of the things that we know in higher ed[ucation]. is that when students feel connected they succeed,” Russo said. “The more connected they feel to the campus and the programs the more likely they are to succeed, so this program provides a real strong connection.”

This umbrella of a support system also includes tuition, transportation and the opportunity for students to build a network with professionals in their line of work.

“The overall piece is to make sure once we’ve recruited, we can retain them and we can graduate them fully certified, and while they’re retained they get the support they need to be successful not only here, but to be effective teachers once they get into the classroom,” Brown said.

Changes made to TOC II include 50 candidates to be covered by the grant, compared to 25 in the years past. There will also be more focus on increasing the number of unrepresented individuals in the teaching field and the support and retention of males, according to Brown.

Other differences between the grants include more money, the move from a three year grant cycle to a five year cycle, and improving teacher preparation with programs like clinical experience.

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