The Student Teacher Corps
Concordia University, along with all postsecondary institutions in Oregon, was looking for ways to help the state reach the 40-40-20 goal during a time of decreased state funding. At the same time, neighboring public schools in Portland Public School District were struggling to improve academic achievement: only 86 percent and 65 percent of third graders currently meet reading and math benchmarks, respectively.
To address both these challenges, Concordia University reached out to the neighboring elementary schools to form innovative partnerships to improve educational success along the educational pipeline—from pre-K classrooms to Ph.D. programs. The result of this initiative is the Concordia Student Teacher Corps, which brings a select group of Concordia students to teach and tutor children in the surrounding neighborhood.
The 2012 - 2013 school year was the third year of the Student Teacher Corps, and one thing that has made the program strong are the intentional connections with site partners. Articulated agreements outline what each school provides and creates a framework for conversation between the two partners. The agreements also ensure the sustainability of the partnerships—they ask each partner to commit for a year and they require a yearly review. Check-in calls and phone conversations are ongoing between Concordia University’s staff and site partners. These intentional connections create strong relationships between Concordia University tutors, youth, and classroom teachers.
The Student Teacher Corps benefits not only the children who are tutored, but also the Concordia University tutors themselves. The tutors help students learn basic skills and serve as a mentor to encourage students to pursue a college education. The tutors help address the top two reasons why low-income students do not attend college at the same rates as their high and middle income peers: academic preparation and college-going expectations.
As the tutors learn more about how to be a mentor, they are able to take on more leadership responsibilities in the Student Teacher Corps. Tutors start out by making a semester-long commitment to the Corps. After they learn how to work in challenging situations, write lesson plans, and collaborate with teachers, they are able to apply for a student leadership position.
Integration into Curriculum
The Student Teacher Corps is built into the curriculum in the College of Education’s undergraduate and graduate programs. Students can begin developing their skills as early as their freshman year though the Corps.