Supporting STEM teachers

Montclair State University was awarded a $6.2 million U.S. Department of Education grant to support its Newark-Montclair Urban Teacher Residency Program.The University is one of 24 universities that received a total of $35 million in Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, which support educational partnership programs with high-need school districts to recruit, train and support more than 11,000 teachers. The grant was the largest given to a New Jersey university.

With a focus on preparing teachers in STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and math – and on encouraging underrepresented groups, such as women, minorities and people with disabilities to teach STEM subjects, the awards support President Obama’s goal of preparing 100,000 STEM teachers by 2021.

“Every teacher deserves the opportunity to receive the training and support necessary to prepare for the rigors of preparing all students for success in the classroom and in life,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in announcing the grants. “We’re proud to announce these awards that represent another important step in strengthening teacher preparation and residency programs.”

In 2009, an earlier rendition of the Newark-Montclair Urban Teacher Residency Program received an initial $6.3 million, five-year Teacher Quality Partnership Grant. Residents in the apprenticeship-based program receive a solid grounding in pedagogical practices along with experience applying those practices in the classroom. Those who complete the program receive the Master of Arts in Teaching degree, which has two tracks: Early Childhood teacher certification with dual certification in Teacher of Students with Disabilities; and content area certification in Mathematics or Science.

Residents receive tuition, fees and a living stipend and, in return, are required to teach in Newark Public Schools for three years.

“The residency builds on our history of partnerships with Newark Public Schools and community agencies that serve children and families,” notes College of Education and Human Services Dean Francine Peterman. “By learning alongside educators with skill and passion, our graduates are well prepared for the realities of today’s classrooms and for ensuring their students’ success.” The new award will allow the program to continue to fulfill its mission.

“We hope to maintain the high standard of excellence of the residency and improve upon the model so that we can sustain it within the teacher education program at the University,” says Jennifer Robinson, executive director of the Center of Pedagogy at Montclair State and one of the project’s principal investigators.

Secondary and special education professors Monica Taylor and Emily Klein are researching the residency’s impact on its graduates, mentor teachers and partner schools. “Our residents are change agents, who work alongside their mentor teachers to design innovative and effective curricula, launch new initiatives and conduct professional development,” Taylor says.

Notes Robinson: “Seventy percent of the residents are from racially and ethnically diverse groups, a reflection of the populations of the students in our classrooms today.” To date, 100 percent of the residents have been hired after completing the program.