New Partnership a Win-Win for Students, Future Educators & the Region - March 05, 2014

Record Number: 10659
Displayed from: Mar 05, 2014 , until: May 05, 2014

Research indicates that 74 percent of students not reading at grade level by the third grade do not graduate from high school. If Northeast Indiana doesn’t have the educated workforce employers need, the region will not be able to compete for new jobs and attract new businesses.

Recognizing the critical connection between literacy skills and success later in life, Forest Park Elementary School and the University of Saint Francis (USF) have kicked off a new reading program this semester. Second-graders at Forest Park are receiving help with their reading skills from USF elementary education majors, who are, in turn, gaining valuable classroom experience.

“More and more jobs are requiring some form of post-secondary education, and that percentage is predicted to reach 60% by 2020. Ensuring that these children don’t fall behind early on is critical for their success and directly impacts the region’s ability to develop the skilled workforce that area employers will need,” said Ryan Twiss, director of the Big Goal Collaborative at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. “Through this new partnership, Forest Park and the University of Saint Francis are taking a lead role in preparing students for the future.”

The 10 USF students, under the supervision of their instructor and the classroom teacher, develop instructional plans and work with second graders who have been determined to need additional support with their reading skills. The USF students meet with the second graders for 90 minutes a week in small groups and in one-on-one sessions. They focus on improving reading skills and preparing the 80 second graders for success in the third grade.

The USF teacher education program is distinctive because all elementary education graduates complete at least 250 hours of field work prior to student teaching. The 250 hours represent a robust pre-teaching experience model, and are performed in addition to state standards

“This is a wonderful opportunity to benefit our children and education majors at Saint Francis. Forest Park second graders luck out with more one-on-one attention, and USF students get the opportunity to see if this is the direction their hearts take will them,” said Robin Peterman, principal at Forest Park Elementary School.

The partnership between the two schools originated through the work of the 3rd Grade Reading Action Team of the Big Goal Collaborative. The Big Goal Collaborative was established in 2012 and is comprised of regional educators, community partners, businesses, civic leaders and others from throughout Northeast Indiana committed to the “Big Goal.” The Big Goal--one of the priorities identified through the Regional Partnership's Vision 2020 initiative - aims to increase the percentage of Northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60% by 2025.

The 3rd Grade Reading Action Team is focused on increasing the percentage of students passing third-grade reading assessments in Northeast Indiana.

The Indiana Reading Evaluation And Determination (IREAD-3) assessment is given to all third graders. It measures students’ reading skills to ensure they can read proficiently before advancing to the fourth grade. In 2013, 82% of Forest Park third-graders passed IREAD-3. The partnership between Forest Park and USF aims to ensure that 100% of second graders have their reading skills honed for success on IREAD-3.

USF students are also benefiting from the partnership between the two schools. The program is open to elementary education majors from USF who are working toward a special education certificate. It melds well with the distinctive USF teacher education program, because all elementary education graduates complete at least 250 hours of field work prior to student teaching, a robust pre-teaching experience model. These hours exceed time expected by the state of Indiana’s licensing rules.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for pre-service teachers to experience hands-on learning in a supportive environment. Students have the opportunity to see and use best-practice interventions in the classroom so they are better prepared for student teaching and for their own future classrooms,” said Brandi Prather-Leming, assistant professor of education at USF.

About the University of Saint Francis The University of Saint Francis, founded in 1890 as a comprehensive university in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs through the School of Health Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, School of Professional Studies and School of Creative Arts. In addition to its traditional programs, the university designs focused curriculum for working adults in Fort Wayne, Crown Point and online. More than 2,400 students from a broad geographic region attend USF for its academic excellence.

About the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Big Goal Collaborative The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership was formed in 2006 to help build a globally competitive economy in Northeast Indiana. It is a public-private partnership creating business investment by generating business leads, developing product and fostering regional collaboration. In 2010, the Partnership launched Vision 2020 to bring the region together around five key areas for economic growth: 21st Century Talent, Competitive Business Climate, Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure and Quality of Life. The 10 counties of Northeast Indiana include Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley. For more information, visitwww.NEIndiana.com.

The Big Goal Collaborative was established in 2012 and is comprised of regional educators, community partners, businesses, civic leaders and others from throughout Northeast Indiana committed to the “Big Goal.” The Big Goal--one of the priorities identified through the Regional Partnership's Vision 2020 initiative--aims to increase the percentage of Northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60% by 2025. For more information about the Big Goal Collaborative, visit http://www.neindiana.com/vision/biggoal.


With nearly 30,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 50 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.