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Exploring the Effects of Professional Development and Family Involvement on Student Learning

What has become an exciting and productive translational research collaboration between the Hartford Public Schools (HPS) and faculty in the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions (ENHP) working through the Center for Learning and Professional Education (CLPE) at the University of Hartford, began in the spring of 2010.  At the invitation of HPS, Assistant Professors Theresa Abodeeb-Gentile and John Tapper assisted HPS with their application for a federal i3 grant (Investing in Innovation Fund [i3] of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), providing support for the grant through an evaluation research plan. The grant would fund an innovative new program at the Ramon E. Betances School which would focus on best practices in early literacy, family involvement, and professional development.

The i3 grant was not funded, but HPS went forward with the Betances Early Literacy Lab School to serve the residents of Hartford’s Charter Oak Terrace neighborhood, many of whom are English language learners. Since the fall of 2010, HPS and the CLPE have explored the professional growth of teachers at the school, student performance, and the development of the early literacy model that came from grant conversations in the spring.

Assistant Professors John Tapper and Theresa Abodeeb-Gentile

ENHP Assistant Professors John Tapper and Theresa Abodeeb-Gentile continue their professional interest in the Betances literacy focus, its faculty, parents, and students.

The Betances Early Literacy Lab School initiative represents a useful exemplar of translational research in education. The research and content skill of ENHP faculty associated with the college’s Center for Learning and Professional Education was used to respond to a real-world research question from the field: What effect would intensive professional development and extensive family involvement have on student learning with an early literacy focus? Working as partners with the Hartford Public Schools, CLPE researchers continue to explore the Betances model in an effort to provide support to HPS and to further understanding of early literacy, professional development, and parent involvement.

Tangible products that have, or will, result from the work of the Center for Learning and Professional Development and the HPS include:

  • Formative and summative reports to school administrators and HPS on progress toward meeting school goals
  • Professional development for faculty and staff
  • A summer symposium on research data gathered at Betances for both researchers from the CLPE and leaders from Betances and the Hartford Public Schools central office
  • White papers, technical reports, and articles for peer-reviewed journals on literacy learning at Betances, professional development, and school transformation
  • Reflection for academic journals/conferences on insights into translational research that have come from work on the Betances project

Betances School Mission

The Betances Early Reading Lab School will be a multi-purpose, school-based research laboratory that incorporates the teaching of early literacy skills to students in grades PK through Grade 3, a literacy institute that provides families with the essential literacy skills to support their children’s language development and a teacher training lab that provides on-site, ongoing professional development in proven, scientifically-based literacy practices for the teachers of Hartford Public Schools.