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NDNU & Cipriani Elementary School Receive J. Russell Kent Exemplary Program Award

Belmont, CA, May 29, 2007 — The San Mateo County School Board Association has awarded the J. Russell Kent Exemplary Program Award to Notre Dame de Namur University and Cipriani Elementary School for their innovative language-arts learning partnership.

NDNU and Cipriani Elementary School teamed up seven years ago to improve both the elementary school’s reading comprehension scores and the quality of future teachers. The two learning institutions work together to achieve their goals by providing elementary classroom reading demonstrations as a form of professional development to NDNU credential candidates.

“Because of Cipriani’s unique and stellar programs in the areas of language arts, our teaching candidates have gained a wealth of knowledge,” said Dr. Joanne Rossi, Dean of the University’s School of Education and Leadership. She added that NDNU students demonstrate an unusually high pass rate on the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) test. “Experience with language arts strategies enhances their chances of doing well. The percentage of NDNU students who pass this test is about 96 percent.”

The program requires NDNU teaching credential candidates to visit one of Cipriani’s fourth or fifth grade classrooms where the Cipriani teachers present an overview of their language arts program, with a special emphasis on literature circles. The candidates then move on to the classroom for an observation. The period begins with a mini-lesson on a research-based comprehension strategy, after which the Cipriani students move into literature circle discussion groups. The NDNU candidates are invited to join the groups and to observe the discussion.

“The classroom students take their roles as ‘teachers’ seriously,” said Cipriani Principal Lisa Zachry, adding that students state Standardized Testing and Reporting Program test scores (STAR) have increased 16 percent since the beginning of their partnership with NDNU.

“They know that they are demonstrating best practices in their classroom, and each student takes a little extra time to explain his or her role and clarify the purpose,” Zachry added. “In addition to having a better understanding of their role in the lesson, students develop self-confidence and an increased ability to speak in front of a group as they demonstrate their knowledge to others.”

After the lesson, credential candidates are debriefed by the classroom teacher. Each candidate is presented with a gift from the classroom teacher: a CD containing literature circle roles, mini-lesson ideas, rubrics, notes for parents, and other ideas to help the new teacher design a language arts program in his or her own classroom.

“Many candidates have shared that they have tried out the teaching strategies during their student teaching assignment and that their master teachers have added these activities to their own classes,” added Zachry, who praised Cipriani teachers Sean Nakamura and Chris Suydam for their dedication to the program. “The partnership between Cipriani School and NDNU benefits all parties-the credential candidates, the classroom teacher, and the students who ‘teach’ the future teachers about literature circles and other language arts techniques.”

For more information regarding NDNU and Cipriani Elementary School’s partnership, call Dr. Joanne Rossi at (650) 508-3613.