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Peace Corps To Expand U.S. Teachers' Program

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The Peace Corps last week announced plans to establish in at least 10 cities next year a program that allows returning Peace Corps volunteers to teach in schools while earning master's degrees in education.

Paul D. Coverdell, Director of the Peace Corps, told an audience at Teachers College, Columbia University, that the Peace Corps Fellows Program piloted five years ago by the college and the New York City Public Schools will be replicated in Philadelphia, Houston, San Antonio, San Diego, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City next year.

Programs established in Los Angeles and Miami this year have allowed returning volunteers to work toward degrees at the University of Southern California and Florida International University, Peace Corps officials said.

Mr. Coverdell said he would like to see the programs spread to at least 25 cities, with involvement by 25 universities, within five years. Plans also are under way to establish rural fellows programs and fellows programs that work with Native American populations, officials said.

Barbara Zartman, deputy director of the Peace Corps, said fellows are having an impact on teacher-training programs through the "very different attitude" they bring to classrooms.

In contrast to traditionally trained teachers, who have come to expect certain types of support from the school system, "Peace Corps volunteers have no such expectations," she said.

"They have often taught in situations where there was no light, no running water, no blackboards," said Ms. Zartman.

In addition, fellows who have worked overseas, the official said, have experience that helps them deal with immigrant populations in American schools.

The Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College was established through a cooperative agreement forged by the college, the Peace Corps, and the New York City Board of Education.

Eighty-five fellows have taken part in the program, teaching mathematics, science, English as a second language, and bilingual- and special-education classes in schools in the South Bronx, the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, and other areas with high percentages of at-risk students.

One-third to three-fourths of the New York program fellows' tuition at Teachers College this year was paid through a $50,000 grant from the New York City Board of Education and $100,000 in support from private donors.

About two-thirds of the volunteers have continued to teach in the New York City schools after earning their master's degrees, Ms. Zartman said.

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