Beginning this fall, Goucher College will offer a master's degree program that trains teachers to help children whose environment outside of school increases their risk of academic failure.
Working closely with the Sheppard Pratt National Center for Human Development, the college has developed plans for an education curriculum that focuses on three groups of children: the "urban child," the middle school child and the "at-risk" child.
Educators need specialized knowledge to help these children overcome the psychological and sociological pressures they face and achieve academic success, says Eli Velder, professor of education at Goucher College and director of the master of education program.
"The school should be aware of what the child brings to the classroom and should develop techniques and methods that can alleviate the problems," Dr. Velder said.
The "urban" child whom educators are concerned about is impoverished and surrounded by drug abuse, violent crime and other negative social forces, Dr. Velder says. The "at-risk" child may come from a dysfunctional family in which there is psychological or physical abuse.
The middle school child must cope with social pressure and the normal but confusing physical and hormonal changes of growing up. In the past, teachers studied either elementary or secondary education and did not receive specialized training for this age group.
"These are three areas where educators are really trying to do a lot of work but are often frustrated in their efforts," Dr. Velder says. Students in the graduate program will concentrate on one of these groups of children.
"We want to give them a well-balanced understanding of the research and theories," Dr. Velder said. "But there will also be a strong application of the research findings and how they can be utilized in the classroom."
The curriculum of the master's degree program will combine the academic experience and educational know-how of Goucher with the academic and psychological expertise of the National Center for Human Development -- the community outreach and educational arm of Sheppard Pratt. Courses will be taught by staff from both institutions.
"We're trying to blend the experience of two distinctly different institutions into a new approach to education," Dr. Velder said. "My hope is that we can provide teachers with insight, understanding, skills and methods to deal with the serious social problems we have in education and help the students to be more successful academically."
Merit scholarships and financial aid are available. An open house for interested students will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 21 in the conference center at Sheppard Pratt. For information, call 337-6047.