Hoping to ease a growing teacher shortage and improve teacher education, three Baltimore-area universities have joined forces to train 1,400 new teachers by 2004 for the area's toughest classrooms.
With a five-year, $12.6 million grant, the Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland Baltimore County and Morgan State University will be hiring more faculty, purchasing equipment and providing mentors for the students who teach. The federal grant is from the U.S. Department of Education.
The majority of new teachers -- some 1,100 -- will go to Baltimore's poorest performing schools, but another 345 will be trained for Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Baltimore counties.
"It is an opportunity to address one of the most pressing problems in urban education -- that of teacher shortages," said Ralph Fessler, director of the graduate division of education at Hopkins.
University officials said the program will be rigorous so that they can channel some of the brightest minds into the schools with the most need.
Fessler said the universities will recruit high-achieving students from throughout the nation as well as people who want to change careers to become teachers. And the program will seek out minority candidates.
"That percent of the teaching population has been dwindling over the years," Fessler said, adding that there is concern that minority teachers will not be as well-represented in the schools with large percentages of African-American students.
The city school system, which is in the midst of a major recruiting effort, has committed $6 million to paying full tuition for students who agree to teach in the city schools for five years after they graduate.
The other school systems have also promised some tuition reimbursement.
Students will have three different degree tracks open to them when they enter the program. The first will be for undergraduates, who will get their degrees from Morgan and be certified by the state to teach.
The second will be for students who will complete a master's program in one year. The third will be for teachers who are working in the school systems but do not have the credentials to be certified. They will earn teaching certificates over two years.
The students will be teaching in the schools while they are taking classes and each will have a mentor to meet with at least once every two weeks as well as other forms of support.
Beginning city school teachers have complained in the past that they don't receive the support and help they need to become good teachers.
Students will be able to take classes at all of the universities to meet their needs, but they will receive a degree from one university. Morgan will grant undergraduate degrees, and Johns Hopkins and UMBC will offer the graduate programs. Teaching certificates are granted by the state Board of Education.
"It is a wonderful opportunity to help address the needs in Baltimore City," said Patricia Morris, Morgan's dean of education and a city school board member.
Morris is hoping the grant will allow Morgan to recruit students from the city schools who will return as teachers. "Our piece is to get into the schools and tap students who may want to teach and those beginning teachers who are scared to death and feel they have been thrown into nine feet of water and don't know how to swim," she said.
"Better teachers get more out of kids."
Pub Date: 9/16/99