By Adrienne Redman | Reporter
Each semester, Baylor School of Education students are placed in classrooms around Waco and surrounding areas in order to gain a deeper appreciation for the field through hands-on experience.
Waco and its surrounding areas display a wide range of socioeconomic diversity, especially among kindergarten through twelfth grade students in the Waco and Midway Independent School Districts. According to Dr. Krystal Goree, the director of the Office of Professional Practice for the School of Education, all Baylor education students will be placed in both of these districts during their field experience at the junior level.
The economic range among students in the Waco area is staggering, making access to resources, home-life of students and educational practices drastically different from district to district.
During the 2016-2017 school year, 85.33% of Waco ISD students were economically disadvantaged, according to the district website. Midway ISD, just a short distance away, had an economically disadvantaged population of 30.5%, according to a study done by the Texas Tribune.
For the past 10 years, The School of Education has implemented a program based on the Professional Development School model to place students in both Midway and Waco ISD classrooms, according to Goree. The Office of Professional Practice, with help from the school principal, the university liaison from Baylor and the site-coordinator, work as a team to place students in effective classroom environments.
“Generally speaking, during the junior level our candidates have two significant field placements, one each semester, that look differently,” Goree said.
Students are split into groups that will switch schools after completing one semester. For example, if a student teaches at Bell’s Hill Elementary School in Waco ISD their first semester, they will teach at Spring Valley Elementary in Midway ISD the next semester and vice versa, according to Goree.
“They have a variety of experiences with a lot of support, and I think that’s key too,” Goree said. “We don’t just send them to the schools without Baylor faculty and without support.”
Petaluma, Calif. junior Caitlin Marweg, has had classroom experience in both districts. At Midway High School in Midway ISD, she taught Pre-AP Algebra 2 and AP Calculus.
According to Marweg, a major distinction between the districts is Midway’s increased access to resources, specifically technology.
“Every single student has an iPad given to them through the school,” Marweg said. “Algebra 2 did everything fully on the iPad: they didn’t use paper.”
She also had access to her own iPad to prepare lessons and an Apple TV in the classroom thats connected to each device, allowing her to prepare interactive and engaging activities for her class.
Marweg currently teaches at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Waco ISD. She says the access to technology is drastically limited, which makes it hard when she teaches classroom activities that require electronic devices.
“We are able to get six iPads for students that maybe don’t have phones, but some people have to partner up because we don’t have enough,” Marweg said. “Although the school has laptop carts and iPads available to check out, they are shared by every classroom and reserved ahead of time by teachers.”
Marweg also noticed a difference between the teaching strategies in each district. For example, the amount of homework assigned to the class.
“At Midway they were assigned a lot more homework because the teachers knew they would actually complete it,” she said. “A lot of them would tell me that their parents or their siblings would help them with their homework.”
However, at Cesar Chavez, the students receive one homework assignment a week.
“A lot of the students just don’t have time to do their schoolwork,” Marweg said. “They might go and work directly after school or help their siblings with things, or they just don’t necessarily have the support at home.” According to Goree, the School of Education prepares students for these differences through various training platforms, such as the Rita Pierson videos on working with students from poverty.
“For many of our students at Baylor, walking into a school of poverty is different than what they have experienced,” Goree said. “Understanding the hidden rules in poverty, where the children come from … we hope will help [Baylor students] in understanding how to better provide educational experiences for the students.”