UMass Dartmouth's Center For University and School Partnerships has received two U.S. Department of Education grants totaling $3.5 million to attract, retain and support K-12 teachers in high need subject areas as identified by partner districts Fall River, New Bedford and Wareham.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity to provide alternative pathways into teaching to individuals who may never have thought about teaching as a profession," said Karen O'Connor, director of the Center for University, School and Community Partnerships (CUSP)
, which will coordinate the grant programs.
Last month UMass Dartmouth's James J. Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to examine new strategies to excite students about learning math, and increase the number and diversity of students in the math, science, and engineering pipeline. The combined total of the Kaput Center and CUSP grants is $5.5 million.
One CUSP grant -- $1.9 million over five years - will support the SouthCoast Partnership for the Journey into Education and Teaching (JET). It was one of nine such grants awarded across the country. The grant's purpose is to prepare paraprofessionals (teacher aides) in partner schools for full-time classroom teaching positions in elementary and special education.
Course work will be offered by UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College along with Lesley University. JET Program Director Pam Herrup said the partnership will address the shortages of highly qualified educators with special education competencies to teach in high needs elementary schools.
"The paraprofessionals have first-hand experience working in inclusion classrooms. JET will enable them to build on that, stay in the profession and in the community long-term," Herrup said. "One teacher said, 'in my first year, I taught special ed with an amazing paraprofessional who taught me what I needed to do.'"
The class structure will accommodate the candidates' work schedules with distance learning and weekend offerings. The grant will provide on-going academic advisement and tuition support for paraprofessionals to obtain a teaching license. It is anticipated that the program will train 200 new classroom teachers.
The second, the Teacher Quality Enhancement-Recruitment Program (TQE-R), totals $1.6 million over four years and is designed to attract math, science and foreign language teachers to middle school classrooms in Wareham, New Bedford and Fall River.
Tyra Lopes, TQE-R program director, said that recruitment efforts will target three populations: career changers, college juniors and seniors majoring in the target fields who are "on the fence" about teaching and long-term substitutes with preliminary licenses who need to obtain full licensure.
Lopes explained that the grant funds would provide scholarships and tuition to ultimately attract 50 individuals into the profession. In addition to recruitment, her job involves preparation (for licensure) and support, Lopes said.
Online programs and webcams will be used to connect first-to-third year teachers with more experienced mentors across the state. They will also have the opportunity to access lesson plans and communicate with scientists and mathematicians via the "E Mentoring for Student Success," tool funded by the National Science Foundation.
"Mentoring is the key to the retention of teachers, especially in high need schools" O'Connor said. "If beginning teachers are not supported in their first few years, there is a very good chance that we will lose them from the profession." As new teachers, they will be provided with professional support on-site and also through a Beginning Teacher Network sponsored by CUSP.
"Each of these grant programs will attract students to UMass Dartmouth who may not have thought about teaching as a profession, but who possess valuable skills and experience combined with a strong desire to teach. Engineers, business executives, retired bankers and retired military personnel are examples. The teacher candidates will gain authentic and relevant urban teaching experience during a one-year residency that will help them be successful once they get a full-time job," O'Connor added.