Indiana University of Pennsylvania has received a $200,000 Expansion Grant Award to continue its work designed to reverse the decline in new teacher graduation rates and to retain new teachers in the field.

The grant, announced today by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, is part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Pennsylvania's Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated State Plan.

In making the announcement, Governor Wolf said, ““Many of our communities with the greatest needs also struggle to attract and retain teachers and school leaders, which directly impacts students. These grants will allow our universities to provide advanced training to better prepare educators to serve in our most high-need areas.”

This expansion grant will allow IUP to build upon work done over the 2018–19 academic year for the next two years.

IUP was one of three universities selected in 2018 to receive $740,250 from PDE to develop and implement programming to meet the goals of teacher success. The IUP program focused on development and delivery of year-long residency programs to support new teachers in the first three years in the field.

“It is extremely gratifying to have been selected for the initial grant, and the additional funding for a second year of the program is a reflection on the great work of the IUP team,” IUP President Michael Driscoll said. “We are thankful for the confidence the Pennsylvania Department of Education has in our work.

“We are very pleased to continue this important partnership with the Department and in providing strong returns on this investment, meeting our joint goal of helping qualified teachers and education leaders be even better prepared for success in the commonwealth's public schools.”

The overarching goals of the “Inspire, Transform, Lead” Residency Program are threefold:

  • To inspire diverse individuals and individuals interested in hard-to-staff disciplines to choose teaching as a career and remain in the teaching profession;

  • To transform educator preparation at IUP by establishing focused hands-on, year-long experiences that prepare teacher candidates to embrace the challenges faced in urban and rural settings;

  • To lead candidates and mentors through the establishment and sustainment of year-long residencies that result in the highest quality of new teachers and to retain effective teachers and mentors in order to positively impact students' academic performance.

“We've had very strong success over this past year, and we look forward to continuing this important work with these additional funds,” Lara Luetkehans, dean of IUP's College of Education and Communications, said.

The initial grant provided tuition and stipends for urban teacher candidates and a living stipend for local candidates and for the literacy graduate students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. It also supported faculty to develop the programming.

With this funding, a total of 14 undergraduate and six graduate student teacher candidates were able to spend a year-long residency in these school districts, and 32 teachers participated in workshops and programs on best practices in co-teaching and mentoring. Ten IUP faculty members developed new curricula to align with field experiences for teacher candidates.

For the 2019–20 year, the majority of the funding will be used to support students during these year-long residencies through living stipends; it is anticipated that 75 teacher candidates will be able to participate in the program for 2019–20 and 100 teacher candidates for the 2020–21 year.

Sue Rieg, dean's associate for Educator Preparation and director of Professional Development School Partnerships, authored the original grant proposal and the extension grant proposal. It was submitted in collaboration with two urban school districts (Greater Johnstown and Pittsburgh Public), six local school districts (Indiana, Blairsville-Saltsburg, Homer Center, Penns Manor, Freeport, and Leechburg), and the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit 28 (ARIN IU 28).

Goals for the 2019–20 program include:

  • Strengthen IUP's current professional development school year-long residency partnership with urban and rural school districts. IUP teacher candidates in at least six programs will experience a full year of clinical practice with expert mentor teachers. Three additional programs will be added for 2020–21.

  • New course content that aligns with field experiences will be added to the year-long residencies, including culturally responsive teaching in high-need urban and rural schools.

  • In-service training on co-teaching for all mentors and residency candidates will continue.

  • Financial support will be provided for 50 undergraduate teacher candidates and 30 literacy graduate assistants as they complete the year-long residences in schools. In return, these candidates will commit to staying in these districts for at least two years.

  • IUP faculty will continue to work with partner districts to recruit diverse teacher candidates; mentors and teacher candidates will begin “planting the seed” as early as fourth grade to recruit diverse candidates for the teaching profession.

  • IUP faculty will continue to identify and support high-ability candidates who will become effective teachers in shortage areas.

  • IUP faculty members, ARIN personnel, and school district partners will create a three-year mentoring program, an online “Network for New Teachers.”

“It's the responsibly of both higher education and school districts to prepare high quality teachers,” Luetkehans said. “While that work begins at the university, the efforts must continue in the educational settings. We are very pleased and fortunate to have strong partnerships with school districts that are committed to supporting teachers throughout their careers.”

“Another focus of the initiative is the diversification of our teaching workforce to be more representative of the students that they serve,” Luetkehans said.

Several undergraduate educator preparation programs at IUP will be part of the project: Art Education (all levels), Early Childhood Education Pk–4, English grades 7–12, middle level grades 4–8 (all tracks), grades pre-kindergarten through grade 4, mathematics grades 7–12, music education (all levels), science grades 7–12, special education pre-kindergarten through grade 8, special education grades 7–12, and social studies education grades 7–12. Reading specialist (all levels), a graduate program, has also committed to participate.

For the 2019–20 year, two additional high-need schools in urban settings and three local school districts will be added to the initiative.

“We graduate between 150 to 200 teacher candidates each year, so this program could have a huge impact on the future, not only for our graduates, but for schools in our region and in the commonwealth,” Rieg said.

“The opportunity to continue to mentor new teachers during the first three years of work is incredibly important to their development and to the likelihood that they remain in the profession.”