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State joining national teaching fellowship program

POSTED: March 3, 2014 9:36 p.m.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced that Georgia will be the first state in the South to join a growing national initiative that seeks to increase the supply of outstanding teachers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields and to change how they are prepared to teach.

Five Georgia institutions — Columbus State University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Mercer University and Piedmont College — have been selected as sites for the Woodrow Wilson Georgia Teaching Fellowship.

“STEM education plays a critical role in our state’s competitiveness and future economic prosperity,” Deal said. “The most important thing we can do for our students in this field is ensure they have effective teachers. The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships will encourage more partnerships between institutions of higher education and our K-12 schools to improve educational opportunities for students in this critical area.”

Each of the five institutions will develop a model master’s-level teacher preparation program, offering fellows a rigorous yearlong experience in local school classrooms.

The process is similar to a physician’s hospital-based training in conjunction with a medical school. Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows receive $30,000 stipends to use during the master’s program. In exchange, they commit to teach in a high-need urban or rural school in Georgia for three years, with ongoing mentoring.

Nearly two dozen Georgia school districts are being considered as partner sites.

“Study after study shows that teachers are the single most important in-school factor in improving student achievement,” said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. “Yet urban and rural schools consistently struggle to attract and retain strong math and science teachers — nationally, 30 to 40 percent of all teachers leave the profession during their first three years in the classroom, and more in high-need districts. So there’s a genuine need for these new teachers, and for innovative preparation that will help keep them in the classroom.”

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation will create and administer the program, with in-state coordination by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. Current project funding is $9.36 million.

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