College of Urban Education develops teachers in real-world settings

The idea for the College of Urban Education was in response to the national call for change in teacher preparation as well as Michigan’s need for effective teachers to serve students in low performing schools.

“Education is the foundation of a prosperous community,” said Tracy Graham, member of the Davenport University Board of Trustees and former Chairman. “Unfortunately, too often the training for teachers falls short in preparing them to educate children in urban communities. Fortunately, there is now a call for the education systems in these communities to be ready and able to adapt to their students’ unique learning needs. The College of Urban Education at Davenport University is answering that call.”

DU established the College of Urban Education in 2014. CUE’s vision is to develop teachers, education leaders and systems that sustain equity, creativity and opportunity for urban youth.

It is that vision that prompted Dr. Roque Neto, Professor in the College of Urban Education, to join the team.

“When I first heard Davenport was starting a College of Urban Education and hiring instructors, I became very excited. I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to help build something from the ground up,” he said.

Current Success — Making an Impact

Within just a few short years, the MUE candidates are already making a significant impact on Grand Rapids Public Schools’ youth. By focusing our curriculum on increasing the effectiveness and reach of teachers currently teaching within the GRPS system, the youth who attend the MUE candidates’ classes are provided with enhanced resources and curricula geared specifically toward improving the academic outcomes of urban youth. We have seen tremendous improvements in teacher effectiveness as well as student achievement. On April 30, 2017, Davenport graduated 22 students from our inaugural cohort.

“My wife, Susan, and I have a vested interest in urban education dating back to our time volunteering at the United Way of West Michigan,” said Frank H. Merlotti, Jr., Chairman of Davenport’s Board of Trustees. “We had hands-on experience mentoring third graders in a reading program in one of the Grand Rapids urban elementary schools. It was through that experience that we gained a deeper understanding of the unique challenges facing teachers, students, administrators and the community at large.”

“We believe the holistic approach of Davenport’s Urban Education curriculum is innovative and is already proving that through qualitative outcomes from the first graduating classes. For us, this program has the potential to be a game changer—in fact a life changer—for our entire educational system, and most importantly those with the greatest need.”

Future Plans

In order to expand on the successes of the current MUE program, Davenport plans to implement the Master of Urban Educational Leadership (MUEL) program in January 2018. The MUEL program will prepare candidates for leadership roles in K–12 schools, focusing specifically on urban school turnaround. Successful school transformation strategies require administrators to be adept at managing financial resources, community engagement, leading faculty through change, supporting and evaluating faculty, developing and assessing curriculum and impacting school culture. The CUE plans to partner with the Donald W. Maine College of Business to implement curriculum that promotes mastery of the business and educational leadership skills needed to transform underperforming schools.


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