In an effort to address the growing shortage of specialized literacy teachers in the rural communities of the Cattaraugus-Allegany region and beyond, Houghton College is launching a fully online graduate degree in literacy education.
Houghton’s new Master of Science in Education (Literacy) targets certified teachers who seek to better meet the language and literacy learning needs of diverse learners in today’s schools. The New York State Department of Education has approved the new program, and classes will begin on September 2, 2019. Upon completion of the master’s degree, graduates will be eligible to apply for New York State certification as literacy specialists at one of three levels: birth through grade 6, grades 5 through 12, or birth through grade 12. According to Houghton College officials, this is the only program of its kind in Western New York to be offered in a totally online format. The first application deadline is April 1.
“This graduate program will be taught entirely online by faculty with earned doctoral degrees,” said Sunshine Sullivan, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Education department. “The same faculty will serve as mentors throughout the coursework, embedded practicum and internships, providing seamless support as candidates work to both apply their theoretical learning and develop their professional learning network.”
This rigorous online degree program will allow teachers to join a professional community of practice with an emphasis on rural literacies, seeking to engage teachers who want to enter or return to rural contexts. For teachers who are not teaching in rural contexts, faculty offer opportunities to dialogue and collaborate with teachers and other stakeholders in rural contexts in an effort to expand their notions of ruralities and discover value in collaborating across contexts.
Students enrolled in this online graduate program will develop a broad and deep teaching repertoire in the field of literacy. They will be equipped to develop collaborative school, family and community partnerships and to research, develop and critique educational thought and practice in ways that advance the profession. Through the Master of Science in Education (Literacy), graduates will be equipped to design sustainable co-teaching and collaborative partnerships across the diverse learning contexts present in today’s birth to grade 12 classrooms.
Requirements for the program may be completed in as little as a year or extended across as many as four years. Courses will address such topics as culturally responsive and dialogic pedagogy, multiple literacies across the content areas, and educational research, among others.
“This master’s program builds on Houghton’s undergraduate Teacher Education Program,” said Professor Sullivan, “equipping teachers for transformative service and learning by preparing educators who are scholars, reflective educators and caring servants—truly hallmarks of a Houghton education.”
Sullivan noted that the majority of undergraduate students in education at Houghton—more than 63 percent—come from New York State. With the growing teacher shortage in rural areas, more candidates are realizing that they are needed now, making this online graduate program an appropriate next step for teachers and for Houghton College. Rural schools across the U.S. struggle to recruit and retain teachers, and Allegany County schools experience this trend as well, said Sullivan. The undergraduate education program partners with local schools that suffer the effects of teacher shortage. Now, with the new online graduate program in literacy education, Houghton College hopes to help curb this trend in meaningful ways.
Houghton’s undergraduate education programs already demonstrate a strong record of success and a broad reach, and the master’s program seeks to further extend this positive circle of influence to support practicing teachers as well as rural schools and communities.