Federal grant will expand University’s innovative teacher preparation program

Building upon six years of successful urban teacher preparation, the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program (Chicago UTEP) will refine and expand its teacher preparation efforts with the assistance of nearly $11.6 million from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement through its Teacher Quality Partnership Grants Program.

The Teacher Quality Partnership Grants Program was created to help improve learning in struggling schools by boosting the preparation and quality of teachers. Grants are awarded to programs with demonstrated success that are committed to rigorous candidate selection and preparation, recruiting diverse candidates, and offering extensive post-graduate assistance for teachers after the program. Programs following a "residency model" design, in which aspiring teachers or "residents" train alongside expert teachers for a full school year, were of particular interest to the reviewers.

Unlike typical residency programs, Chicago UTEP requires its students to successfully complete a yearlong foundations sequence that offers multiple opportunities to study and experience urban schooling before they apply to the residency program. After the residency year, students engage in a final summer of coursework and teaching experiences. During this final phase of the program, students are assigned a coach from the program, who follows them into their early years of teaching. All residents who choose to teach in high-needs Chicago Public Schools for three years will receive a living stipend through the grant during their residency preparation. Chicago UTEP students also will receive three years of post-graduate support, which is considerably more time than most traditional teacher training programs.

Funding to Chicago UTEP will result in improved curriculum to align with the needs of Chicago Public Schools, the addition of a robust secondary mathematics and science certification program, enhanced recruitment strategies to further improve the selectivity and diversity of candidates, extended new teacher induction activities, and solidified school partnerships. Chicago UTEP will work with the Consortium on Chicago School Research to evaluate and measure the impact of their model. When the work supported by the grant is fully operational after five years, the Chicago UTEP program will be serving approximately 300 aspiring and novice teachers in various stages of development.

"This is a really promising signal from the federal government about our model and its capacity to train high-quality teachers for urban schools," said Kavita Kapadia Matsko, Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program. "In addition to refining and expanding our program, this award will give us an opportunity to carefully evaluate some of the key design features of our work and their effects on teacher retention rates, student learning outcomes, and the social organization of the schools in which our graduates work." Kapadia Matsko is a former Chicago Public School teacher as well as a graduate of the University of Chicago Department of Sociology.

Currently, the retention rates for UTEP graduates dramatically exceed Illinois and Chicago norms. Overall, 90 percent of UTEP graduates remain in the classroom after three years. In order to support continued retention, Chicago UTEP will intensify its post-graduate assistance, with particular attention to helping their alumni develop leadership skills. With the help of the grant, Chicago UTEP will cluster its alumni, residents and clinical instructors (expert teachers) in several schools to form cohesive learning communities that will lead to optimal and continued teacher improvement.

"Before World War II and for some years afterward, the University had a long and distinguished tradition of training primary- and secondary-level teachers for both public and private schools, and the new UTEP programs are a way for us to revive and enhance that distinguished tradition," said John Boyer, Dean of the College. "No levels of teaching are more essential for the welfare of our communities and our nation, and it is particularly gratifying for us to provide strong preparatory programs for our own College students, who want professional careers in primary education and in secondary education in mathematics and the natural sciences."

The Urban Teacher Education Program, a master's degree-granting program, is part of the Urban Education Institute. UEI is the University of Chicago's center for the development of innovative approaches to confronting the challenges of improving K-12 learning in urban schools. In addition to its teacher preparation program, UEI operates four charter school campuses and the Consortium on Chicago School Research, which is dedicated to undertaking groundbreaking research on Chicago school reform.

"Improving the quality of teaching is essential to improving the quality of children's lives," said Tim Knowles, the John Dewey Director and Clinical Professor of UEI. "This grant award is an extraordinary opportunity for the Urban Education Institute to continue to develop effective teachers that Chicago students deserve-kindergarten through 12th grade. Equally important is the opportunity to create an exportable model for how to do this well, relevant to higher education institutions and not-for-profit organizations nationwide."

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