VCU School of Education, Richmond Public Schools team up to boost student success at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School

The VCU School of Education and Richmond Public Schools have launched an innovative partnership to work together to improve student performance in academics at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.

“Our goal, over the long term, is to increase student success on the Virginia Standards of Learning tests in the four major content areas — English, mathematics, science and social studies,” said Diane Simon, Ph.D., senior associate dean for student affairs and a professor in the Department of Counseling and Special Education at the VCU School of Education.

The collaboration, known as the MLK Jr. Collaborative Intervention Project, grew out of a survey in the spring by the Virginia Department of Education called “College/University Partnerships with Challenged Schools,” which sought to determine the capacity of Virginia’s colleges and universities to help boost student performance at some of the state’s most challenged schools.

Over the summer, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Dana Bedden, Ed.D., reached out to VCU School of Education Dean Andrew Daire, Ph.D., to ask if VCU might be able to lend its expertise to help MLK Middle School.

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Teacher Tales: Participants in the School of Education’s Richmond Teacher Residency program share lessons they’ve learned in city school classrooms

Grace Giampietro, a graduate student in the VCU School of Education who is participating in the Richmond Teacher Residency program, teaches a third grade special education class at Linwood Holton Elementary School.  Photos by Julia Rendleman, University Marketing.

Grace Giampietro, a graduate student in the VCU School of Education who is participating in the Richmond Teacher Residency program, teaches a third grade special education class at Linwood Holton Elementary School.
Photos by Julia Rendleman, University Marketing.

For the past five years, a partnership between Richmond Public Schools and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education has prepared 77 new teachers who have made an immediate impact in 24 of the city’s most challenged public schools.

The Richmond Teacher Residency program is a highly selective urban graduate teacher residency program that aims to create a sustainable pipeline of highly effective teachers who are committed to the students of Richmond Public Schools for the long term.

“Despite overwhelming research that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in student achievement — and that teacher effects on student learning have been found to be cumulative and long-lasting — poor and minority students consistently are taught by the least prepared, least experienced teachers,” said Therese A. Dozier, Ed.D., director of the RTR program.

“This results in a constant churning of teachers in urban schools that comes with a huge price tag — $6 million each year for Richmond Public Schools, according to the 2014 National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future ‘Teacher Turnover Calculator’ — and, most importantly, the cost to students in terms of the lack of stability in schools and its negative impact on student achievement,” she said.

The RTR program is designed to end these educational inequities. Similar to a medical residency, the teachers co-teach alongside a Richmond Public Schools master teacher for a year, receive extensive mentoring and support, earn a master’s degree in education, and commit to teach at least an additional three years in Richmond Public Schools.

“Teachers who are unprepared in curriculum, teaching methods, child development, and with no student teaching experience leave at twice the rate of teachers who have had this training,” Dozier said.

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VCU’s Green Zone program has become a national model for supporting military students on campus

Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs

Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs

On a Wednesday afternoon in the University Student Commons at Virginia Commonwealth University, staff and faculty members pepper a panel of students with questions.

“What would you guys like to see from your academic advisors, as far as being sensitive to the needs of our student veterans?”

“What can we say in our communications to veterans? I can’t get them in my office in the first place.”

“Can student veterans get minors, or double majors?”

“I’ve had some students approach me about being in large classrooms that have made them uncomfortable in certain situations. Have you guys ever found yourself in a situation like that?”

“Can you tell us a little bit more about what the GI Bill actually covers, and what the timeframe is?”

By sharing their experiences as part of the Green Zone program, the military and veteran students on the panel are helping faculty and staff learn about the strengths, opportunities and challenges fellow veterans bring to campus.

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VCU captures national honor for community service efforts

VCU School of Dentistry students, faculty and staff volunteer at the Wise County Fairgrounds as part of the Virginia Dental Health Foundation’s Missions of Mercy Project, an initiative to provide dental care for uninsured and underserved populations of rural Virginia.

VCU School of Dentistry students, faculty and staff volunteer at the Wise County Fairgrounds as part of the Virginia Dental Health Foundation’s Missions of Mercy Project, an initiative to provide dental care for uninsured and underserved populations of rural Virginia.

The Corporation for National and Community Service named Virginia Commonwealth University a finalist for the 2015 General Community Service Presidential Award, recognizing the university as one of the top higher education institutions in the country for its commitment to community engagement.

VCU was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the ninth consecutive time, but this marked the first time that VCU earned finalist recognition. VCU was one of four finalists in the General Community Service category. The honor, which was announced in September, covers service during the 2013–14 academic year and represents one of the highest acknowledgements a college or university can receive for its community engagement endeavors.

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President’s Forum on Social Justice draws hundreds to discussions

Photos by Julia Rendleman/University Marketing

Photos by Julia Rendleman/University Marketing

More than 100 chairs were pulled close to tables and the volume of conversation pitched upward as the Virginia Commonwealth University community delved into the first of several challenging conversations at the President’s Forum on Social Justice.

Three sessions attracting approximately 500 students, faculty and staff were held in the Commonwealth Ballrooms in the University Student Commons on Thursday.

“We need to continue to hold ourselves accountable and be responsible for ensuring that VCU is everything we say that we want it to be,” Rao told the group. “Climate is really about all of us, how we all take a step forward and lead. All of you have significant input.”

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Program provides students with intellectual disabilities an inclusive college experience at VCU

Education coach Camille Spencer, a senior environmental studies major, helps ACE-IT participant Sarah Lancaster study and work on astronomy homework.  Photos by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs

Education coach Camille Spencer, a senior environmental studies major, helps ACE-IT participant Sarah Lancaster study and work on astronomy homework.
Photos by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs

Ever since he was in middle school in Chesterfield County, Teddy Robbins dreamed of one day getting the opportunity to attend college. But Robbins was enrolled in special education classes in middle and high school, so he figured his chances of getting into college weren’t great.

“I’d always wanted to go to college,” he said, “but I didn’t think it was going to ever happen.”

During his senior year of high school, however, Robbins heard about a program at Virginia Commonwealth University, called ACE-IT in College, that provides students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to attend classes at VCU, work in a job and participate in all aspects of the college experience.

“I feel great about being at VCU. I’m really enjoying my time here,” said Robbins, who is taking courses this fall on forensic science, choral arts and LGBTQIA studies.

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Monroe Park renovation to begin in November

Photo by Thomas M Kojcsich/University Marketing.

Photo by Thomas M Kojcsich/University Marketing.

Mayor Dwight Jones, Virginia Commonwealth University and the Monroe Park Conservancy have announced completion of a multiyear campaign to raise $3 million in private funds to renovate Richmond’s oldest city park. The announcement sets in motion procedural steps to allow construction to begin later this year.

“Many of us have labored for more than a decade to launch the renovation of Richmond’s oldest park,” said Alice Massie, president of the Monroe Park Conservancy. “I’m grateful to the mayor, VCU and the many generous Richmonders who have brought us to this moment. It’s exciting to know that the work can now begin.”

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At VCU Broad Street Mile, ‘a great way to build connections’

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The Broad Street Mile allows participants to support local charities by running in a 5K or several 1-mile fun runs.

Running is part of Joseph DiPiro’s morning routine. The dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy is typically on the road around 6 a.m., logging his daily miles — 4-5 on weekdays, 8-10 on the weekends.

DiPiro tries to run five days a week as part of his fitness regimen. But he also sees running as a way to build community.

“I’m really impressed by the social nature of running,” DiPiro said. “If we make a commitment to meet up on a Saturday morning, then that’s always going to be a higher-quality run. We’ll run maybe a little bit faster, a little bit farther. And you have more time to talk to people — when do you get an hour just to explore the world’s issues these days?

“It covers a lot of ground — the social, the health, the physical part of it.”

DiPiro is one of 577 runners already signed up for the Sept. 24 VCU Broad Street Mile — the annual fall street festival and road race held on the Monroe Park Campus. The run this year is part of a series of events launching the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, a comprehensive fundraising campaign with three priorities — people, innovations and environments. The campaign aims to touch every aspect of VCU: students, alumni, faculty and staff, patients, caregivers, researchers, schools, libraries, centers and institutes, athletics, and the community.

‘Beat the dean’

DiPiro is bringing his social philosophy to the race this year by issuing a “beat the dean” philanthropic challenge to pharmacy school students, faculty and staff participating in the 5K run. All proceeds from DiPiro’s challenge support the School of Pharmacy scholarship fund.

“It’s pretty simple: If I beat them they have to put up $5; if they beat me I have to put up $10,” DiPiro said.

The challenge is an initiative of the school’s Student Philanthropists Alumni Network, a new group formed to raise awareness of philanthropy among current pharmacy students. The school awarded $623,650 in scholarships to 183 students during the last fiscal year.

The Broad Street Mile, now in its fourth year, doubles as a fundraiser for local organizations. VCU announced in July that, in an effort to expand community impact, this year’s event does not require participating groups to have a 501(c)3 designation. Several university offices and schools, including the Grace E. Harris Leadership InstituteVCU ASPiRE and the School of Pharmacy, are participating as fundraising organizations in the Broad Street Mile for the first time as a result of this change.

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As presidential election approaches, VCU students seek to register to vote classmates, disenfranchised populations in Richmond

From left, Camilla Harris, a sophomore international studies major; Anthony Jones, a junior sociology and international social justice double major; and Cove Soyars, a junior bioinformatics majors, discuss felon voter rights restoration with Sylvia Clute, who teaches restorative justice at Virginia Union University.

From left, Camilla Harris, a sophomore international studies major; Anthony Jones, a junior sociology and international social justice double major; and Cove Soyars, a junior bioinformatics majors, discuss felon voter rights restoration with Sylvia Clute, who teaches restorative justice at Virginia Union University.

At a table loaded down with stacks of voter registration forms at the Mosby Court public housing development on Saturday, Virginia Commonwealth University student Anthony Jones is encouraging residents to get registered and vote in the upcoming presidential election.

“What’s up my man, you want a button?” he asks a young boy who has wandered over, curious about what’s going on. “We’re out here registering people to vote. We don’t care who you vote for, just that you get registered and vote for somebody.”

Jones, a junior sociology and international social justice double major, and Camilla Harris, a sophomore international studies major, are working this semester as part of a grant from the Andrew Goodman Foundation to promote election engagement among VCU students and disenfranchised communities in Richmond.

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Coffee bike helps Rams in Recovery stay on the road to wellness

A cargo tricycle outfitted with a custom coffee station will create a moveable space for conversations about addiction and recovery at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“We are building a bike to ride around campus and around Richmond to share our project and experiences in recovery over cups of coffee,” said John Freyer, assistant professor of cross-disciplinary media in the VCU School of the Arts Department of Photography and Film. “Students from the Rams in Recovery group will be riding this coffee bike around and making pour-over coffee for people.”

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