In combination with the state’s leading philanthropist, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota will participate in the newly created Sanford Education Collaborative to advance research-based programs that support PreK-12 student learning and development. The $30 million national initiative to expand the programs nationally, announced Tuesday by San Diego-based nonprofit National University, is based on the vision of Sioux Falls philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.
In addition to USD and SDSU, the collaborative is comprised of Long Island University, New York; Nova Southeastern University, Florida; City University of Seattle; University of Maine; Touro College, New York; and University of Central Florida. National University, which confers the fourth-largest number of master’s degrees in education every year, leads the collaborative and the national expansion of the programs, which are supported by an initial gift from Mr. Sanford, anonymous donors and its own funding contributions.
As members of the Sanford Education Collaborative, USD and SDSU will be involved in disseminating the Sanford Harmony program, which strengthens social and emotional development. The research-based program has been found to improve academic performance, increase positive attitudes about school and reduce classroom aggression. It will be introduced to pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students in the state of South Dakota during the 2015-16 school year. Participating programs receive free classroom materials, professional development opportunities and teacher guides.
Sanford Harmony, which is being introduced nationally by all nine members, incorporates a range of lessons and activities developed at Arizona State University. The program addresses the development of interpersonal and problem-solving skills that help students learn to cooperate, communicate and find empathy and common ground.
USD’s Nicholas Shudak, chair of the division of curriculum and instruction, and Gera Jacobs, professor of early childhood and elementary education, will be working with the Sioux Falls School District to implement the program in their PreK classrooms. They will be working with PreK and kindergarten at both Austin Elementary in Vermillion and Beresford Elementary. St. Agnes Schools in Vermillion will be implementing the program schoolwide in PreK through fifth grade.
“We are thrilled to be part of the Sanford Harmony program and be able to bring this research-based program to South Dakota. The program is designed to promote positive peer interactions among all students and encourages mutual respect through everyday practices and lessons,” Jacobs said. “It has been shown to increase children’s empathy and positive feelings about school, while decreasing stereotyping and classroom aggression. This is exactly what we need to help reduce bullying and other social problems many of our students and schools are facing.”
With the Sanford Harmony resources, South Dakota State will initially work with Brookings and Flandreau Boys & Girls Clubs and their Power UP programs, child care programs and the Family Resource Network, which is a state and locally supported Early Childhood Enrichment program providing training, education and resources to adults who are involved in the day-to-day care of children and youth.
The Power UP program is a partnership between the Brookings School District and the Brookings Boys & Girls Club to provide summer enrichment to children who are at risk of falling behind academically. The program, directed to children in grades K-3, averages 100 students in attendance. The Flandreau program will be in its first year.
“We recently revamped our teacher education program to include an inclusive-based theory of teaching and education,” Jill Thorngren, dean of SDSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences, said. “We look forward to working with the partner universities.”
Jennifer Kampmann, an assistant professor and college assessment coordinator in SDSU’s Department of Teaching, Learning and Leadership, is identifying opportunities for pre- and post-tests on social/emotional skills. After implementing the program, SDSU and USD plan on contributing to ongoing research of the program by conducting interviews with teachers and family members to discuss what changes have taken place in student or child behaviors.
Thorngren said plans are being made to use graduate students to help implement the program and looks to partner with school counseling and early childhood education students for implementation.
Although partner schools and programs have already been identified for the coming year, those interested in possibly participating in the future can contact Shudak at 677-5210 or Thorngren at 688-6181.
About the Sanford Education Collaborative/National University
The Sanford Education Collaborative is a coordinated effort among participating schools of education to advance research-based programs that support PreK-12 student learning and development. Through online resources and classroom tools, the Collaborative provides immediate teaching solutions for in-service and pre-service teachers while serving as a framework for identifying and assessing impactful teaching methodologies. The Collaborative is administered through nonprofit National University, which confers the fourth-largest number of master’s degrees in education nationwide, and its Sanford Education Center, which was established in 2014 through a generous gift by philanthropist and entrepreneur T. Denny Sanford. The inaugural members of the Sanford Education Collaborative are: National University (California); Long Island University (New York); Nova Southeastern University (Florida); City University of Seattle; South Dakota State University; University of Maine; University of South Dakota; Touro College (New York); and University of Central Florida.