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Teaching by immersion


IT IS POSSIBLE that the call to recruit the best and brightest to the teaching profession is not being heeded elsewhere, but in Baltimore, an exciting, innovative program is doing just that and should serve as a nationwide model.

Under a $12.6 million federal grant awarded in the fall to the Graduate Division of Education in the Johns Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, a partnership has been formed among Hopkins, Morgan State University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Baltimore City Public School System to recruit the best prospective teachers. The objective is to prepare them in unique teacher-training programs, and send them to the urban classrooms in Maryland most in need of their services.

This program -- Project SITE SUPPORT -- is a tremendous opportunity to make a significant impact on education in urban areas, where there is a critical shortage of teachers. Over the next five years, we expect to put nearly 1,400 high-quality teachers into Maryland schools -- about 1,100 in Baltimore City alone. About 345 new teachers will be prepared for placement in other increasingly urbanized areas of Prince George's, Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

SITE stands for School Immersion Teacher Education and SUPPORT is an acronym for School University Partnership to Prepare Outstanding and Responsive Teachers.

Project SITE SUPPORT has established a network of school-university-community-business partnerships to recruit, prepare, support and retain a new generation of teachers. It marks a fundamental change in the way Hopkins, Morgan and UMBC are preparing teachers.

Of particular importance is the close collaboration we have formed between the education departments at our universities and our respective arts and sciences faculties. Such collaboration ensures that newly trained teachers are fully versed in academic disciplines.

In addition, the program is establishing an "electronic learning community" to facilitate continuous contact between these new teachers and their instructors and mentors providing peer support groups.

Prospective teachers who already have their undergraduate degrees in an appropriate content area can pursue a year-long internship in the city schools and simultaneously earn their master's degree in one year at either Hopkins or UMBC. They will receive full tuition support and earn an $8,000 stipend for the training period in return for an additional three-year commitment to teach in the city school system.

Under an alternative, two-year resident teaching program, students can teach in Baltimore City schools and pursue their master's degree part-time at Hopkins, Morgan State, or UMBC during their first two years of teaching. Teacher candidates in this program earn a beginning teacher's salary and are awarded full tuition for the master's degree program in return for an additional three-year commitment to the city school system.

Project SITE SUPPORT's undergraduate internship program enables Morgan students entering their final undergraduate year to take a year-long teaching internship that provides intensive hands-on training and guidance from seasoned educators and content experts. Those selected for this program are awarded full tuition and a $4,000 stipend in return for a two-year commitment to teaching in the BCPS.

The benefits of participating in Project SITE SUPPORT are substantial -- both for the students and for the school systems that need exceptional teachers.

The students join a diverse group of energetic teacher candidates from across the nation and make a difference in the lives of students in our region's neediest urban schools. They receive ongoing mentoring from seasoned teachers and content-area experts during their first years of teaching. They maximize their professional potential as they begin their teaching careers at a time when the need for qualified teachers has never been greater and participate in an innovative electronic learning community that links them to fellow teachers and leading educators across all the participating schools and universities.

Project SITE SUPPORT is, indeed, a model for preparing the best and brightest teachers and should be of tremendous interest nationwide.

Rochelle Ingram holds a doctorate and is director of the Graduate Division of Education in the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education at Johns Hopkins University.

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