Education Funding

Philanthropies Launch Teacher-Training Fellowships

By Vaishali Honawar — December 19, 2007 3 min read
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The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has announced an ambitious national- and state-level fellowship program to lure college graduates and midcareer professionals to long-term teaching careers in high-need schools.

Creators say the $17 million program, underwritten by the Lilly Endowment, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is intended to raise the profile of teaching as a career and to overhaul teacher education itself in the long run.

“We want to get excellent teachers to high-needs schools in cities and rural areas, we want to attract the best and brightest to teaching and to dignify the profession, we want to retain the top teachers, and we want to transform teacher education,” said Arthur E. Levine, the president of the foundation.

The fellowship is two-pronged. The state-level program will begin in Indiana, with more states, including Ohio, expected to launch similar programs next year. Fellows, to be named in spring 2009, will receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a yearlong master’s program at one of four partner institutions—Ball State University, Purdue University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the University of Indianapolis. In return, they must commit to teach mathematics and science in the state’s schools for three years.

The national fellowship is described as a “Rhodes scholarship” for teaching. It expects to produce 100 fellows over three years and includes a $30,000 stipend and one year of graduate education at four of the nation’s top programs—Stanford University, the University of Washington, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Virginia. Fellows in the national program will also have to agree to teach for three years in low-income schools.

Curriculum Changes

The attempt to attract the brightest talent to teaching is not new. Teach For America, for instance, has lured fresh college graduates with a two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools. In New York City, a partnership between the school district and two teacher programs offers candidates free tuition and mentoring support if they commit to teach math and science for two years.

But those behind the Woodrow Wilson program see it as having a bigger, national-level impact.

“The program is designed to have incredible leverage,” said Mr. Levine, a former president of Teachers College, Columbia University. Once it takes off, he said he expects many more “very able people” will look toward teaching as a desirable profession, and other colleges of education will set up similar fellowships. He also hopes that once the money from the philanthropies runs out, states would pitch in with funds.

The four Indiana colleges will take on 20 fellows each year and receive an additional $500,000 so they can make such changes as introducing new curriculum and outcome measures. Students will get three years of mentoring as they start teaching. Colleges are to establish residencies in which teachers will spend time on their campuses helping to plan the teacher education programs, while professors will spend time in K-12 classrooms.

Mr. Levine said the foundation zeroed in on Indiana partly because it believed the fellowship would have a bigger effect there. The 80 teachers it would generate annually would make up one-fourth of the new math and science teachers the state produces each year.

Pat Swails, the president of the Indiana chapter of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, called it a “fantastic” idea.

“Our problem is that a lot of the students of math and science go to industry because they have respect there and a competitive salary, none of which is available to teachers of math and science consistently across the state,” she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 19, 2007 edition of Education Week as Philanthropies Launch Teacher-Training Fellowships

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