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VSU, VCS Partner to Expand Educational Equity, Improve Student Achievement 

VALDOSTA, Georgia — Valdosta State University has earned a $300,000 grant from Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity to transform the standards of teacher preparation with a focus on developing highly effective, compassionate, and adaptive teachers.


With the support of Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, VSU will expand its ongoing partnership with Valdosta City Schools to help address the critical issue of educational equity for all students — from the early prekindergarten years through high school graduation.


“VSU’s educator preparation programs are already producing exceptional educators who teach all over the country, but this grant will deepen the relationship we have with one of our partner school districts, Valdosta City Schools, to produce teacher candidates with targeted competencies who meet the needs of diverse P-12 students, particularly Black, Latinx, and low-income students,” said Dr. Natalie Kuhlmann, director of the Office of Professional Education Services with VSU’s James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services and principal investigator for the grant.


The Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity grant team also includes co-principal investigators Dr. Kristy Litster, Dr. Regina Suriel, and Dr. Forrest Parker from VSU’s Department of Teacher Education.


“Partnership efforts span to professional development, faculty and teacher training, and candidate experiences in the schools. In addition to this work, Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity will support our efforts by providing access to a community of institutions with shared goals and access to resources, professional development, and collaborative opportunities to learn from one another while moving toward sustainability and innovation.”


Over the next three years, VSU, Valdosta City Schools, and Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity will work together to guide the creation of equity-oriented preparation programs that seek to develop educators — new and experienced, in the classroom and in leadership roles — who reflect and respect the value of an increasingly diverse elementary, middle, and high school student body.


“The faculty and staff at Valdosta City Schools have a passion for providing a customized and targeted education for the students in their district,” Kuhlmann added. “By collaborating with Valdosta City Schools, VSU will be able to better prepare to meet the needs of their students, particularly with recruiting and preparing diverse and highly qualified teacher candidates with strategies to address racial, ethnic, linguistic, and other student needs. By the end of the three years, these collaborative efforts will be able to be applied across all partner school districts and teacher candidates prepared at VSU.”


This spring VSU and Valdosta City Schools will begin identifying thought group members, with representatives from both educational institutions, who will address specific components of the transformation initiative.


Lead faculty from VSU’s teacher preparation programs and the Office of Professional Education Services will meet monthly to evaluate and revise the current curricula to align to the results from thought groups and ensure the Dewar College of Education and Human Services is graduating teachers with the relevant content knowledge, experience, and training to be culturally responsive to their students’ learning styles and needs.


“Valdosta City Schools is excited to partner with Valdosta State University and Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity to ensure comprehensive preparation and retention of diverse P-12 teachers who are well trained and able to equitably meet the educational needs of an ever-changing and equally diverse student populace,” said Dr. David Cole, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for Valdosta City Schools. “Through this initiative, Valdosta City Schools hopes to further cultivate a sustainable partnership with VSU to effectively recruit and train teacher candidates who can master equity and diversity-based educational practices.”


“We are excited to partner with Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity to enhance our programs to provide our teacher candidates with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today’s diverse classrooms,” said Dr. David Slykuis, dean of the VSU’s Dewar College of Education and Human Services. “Having Valdosta City Schools on as our partner will allow us to also enhance the teaching and learning experience for the teachers and students in the city.”


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