Come September, Owings Mills Elementary will be a school for teachers as well as students. The 68-year-old building will be Baltimore County's first demonstration school, known in education parlance as a "professional development center."
That means there will be an unusually large number of student teachers, now called interns, and an unusual number of outstanding classroom teachers, called mentors or master teachers. The teachers will teach teaching while they teach times tables and other lessons to their children.
For the school's 700-plus students, the change will mean more adults in their classrooms, more experienced teachers, more prestige and perhaps more state-of-the-art equipment. And, -Z college faculty will shuttle in and out to learn and to team up with the elementary teachers.
A partnership between the school system and Towson State University, the demonstration school is designed to unite theory and practice for the college students and ultimately produce better teachers, while increasing opportunities for Owings Mills' students.
"The school's going to operate pretty much as it always has. The university students are pretty much going to operate as they always have. But, instead of each one existing separately, they will have common goals," said Teresa Field, an assistant professor of elementary education at Towson State who worked with similar centers near West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Instead of spending only a few months at a school, as traditional student teachers do, Owings Mills' interns will stay for four semesters -- sometimes only one day a week, though.
They will coordinate what they learn in their Towson State classrooms with what they experience at Owings Mills.
The county school board gave its blessing to the pilot project last week.
Now school officials will begin interviewing teachers who want to stay at or transfer to Owings Mills, and Towson State officials will begin selecting 10 to 15 interns for the first group. Owings Mills has a teaching staff of 43, including 28 classroom teachers, said Chet Scott, the principal.
Many of them will stay, but 12 have asked for transfers. Officials ++ said teaching in the new program will require a double commitment.
"They'll really do two jobs: teaching youngsters and teaching teachers," said the principal. They'll spend extra time this spring and summer preparing, and those who supervise Towson students will receive a stipend and other professional opportunities.
Mr. Scott had no difficulty defining the type of "master teacher" he's seeking: "They are teachers who are outstanding in all areas."
When school officials decided to establish the center, they wanted a large school with a diverse enrollment, an enthusiastic principal and staff and space for the program, said Mary Jacqe Marchione, director of elementary schools for the northwest area.
Owings Mills fit the bill -- except perhaps for the space. It has 710 students in a building designed for 530. Fifty-five percent of the students are white and 40 percent are black. The school also has sizable numbers of Asian, Hispanic and Russian students.
Nearly half of the students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches because of their families' low incomes, Mr. Scott said. But Owings Mills has youngsters from affluent neighborhoods, too.
Turnover among teachers is somewhat high, and many teachers are new to the job.
The principal said making Owings Mills a training school will change that.
"The teachers will all be experts and you can't beat that. It will add consistency and stability to our school and to our education."