USJ offers three new education programs this fall 

In response to the reported shortage of 1,200 teachers in Connecticut classrooms, the University of Saint Joseph is offering three exciting new education programs this fall to attract students to the teaching profession and to provide professional development options for teachers already in the classroom. 

The new programs include a B.S. in Elementary Education; a Graduate Certificate in Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities; and a Graduate Concentration-Master of Arts in Education with Concentration in Personalized Professional Pathways (MAPPP). 

The new programs were created through collaboration between education faculty, Department of Education Advisory groups, students, and alumni and analysis of the needs of current teachers and the demand for educators. The Department of Education and its faculty worked together to review the curriculum, review accreditation standards and the needs of Connecticut schools. The curriculum for each of the degrees were created through the integration of “existing robust courses in new pathways,” said Ashley Oldham, chair of the USJ Department of Education and associate professor of Education. 

The new major in Elementary Education provides undergraduate candidates with the opportunity to combine a content area of their choosing with the coursework and practicum experiences that lead to Elementary Education teacher certification. 

“The various experiences students will receive will allow them to be better prepared to work with all students, including the diverse student population in many of the schools throughout our state and nation,” said Dr. Eileen Gonzalez, Elementary Education Program Director.   

This dual major pathway aligns with USJ’s competitor institutions, and more accurately reflects the breadth and depth of study in education that is required to be recommended for certification by USJ.  

“This program will build on our strengths and prepare our Elementary educators to be confident, compassionate, and culturally responsive teachers,” said Dr. Dianna Wentzell, Director of Clinical Practice. 

The new Graduate certificate in Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities, offering the option to complete an MA in Education in Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities, was created in response to the statewide literacy crisis. 

According to data collected last year by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, Connecticut students in grades three to eight lost about 4.5 months of reading instruction between 2019 and 2022. On the latest statewide assessment, less than half of Connecticut’s third graders met grade-level expectations in English Language Arts – most notably in districts with high numbers of low-income students.  

The fully on-line certificate in Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities is designed to be embedded within the Master of Arts in Special Education degree program. The certificate aligns with the University’s sense of responsibility to the needs of society, in this case, the need to prepare teachers to meet the needs of students with Dyslexia and other reading disabilities. 

“Dyslexia affects somewhere between 10-20 percent of children learning to read and is, by far, the most common learning disability teachers must address in their classrooms,” said Dr. Sharon Ware, Director of USJ’s Special Education Literacy program.  “USJ has developed a sequence of courses to hone teachers’ skill in providing comprehensive reading instruction that is highly effective for students with dyslexia and for all struggling readers.”  

The new Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in Personalized Professional Pathways (MAPPP) will provide options for educators to create their own professional development pathway to a graduate degree. 

With increasingly diverse and challenging Preschool – 12 classrooms, many in-service educators have expressed interest in creating unique combinations of graduate coursework to meet their individual professional development goals.  

“The MAPPP curriculum is designed to allow teachers to expand their professional knowledge and skills through a 30-credit program that includes self-selected coursework ranging from curriculum and instruction to meeting needs of neurodiverse and English learners,” explained Dr. Andrea Spencer, Director of Off Campus Education programs.   

“As the need for support and continuous professional development increases in the face of serious teacher shortages in Connecticut, programs to sustain and energize educators already in the classroom have become a priority,” Oldham said. “As described, this program fulfills University goals, and holds the promise of enhanced enrollment in graduate programs that serve Connecticut communities.”