MSU gets major award to recruit, train teachers

STARKVILLE — A major U.S. Department of Education award to Mississippi State University’s College of Education will aid in recruiting and training new middle school teachers from some of the state’s poorest, most rural areas.

The department’s recent five-year Transition to Teaching grant for the Teacher Education for Rural Middle Schools (TERMS) program is designed to provide an alternative route for those interested in teaching in rural middle schools. The university has received $446,893 for the first year, with more than $3 million to be distributed over the remaining four years.

During that time, the two-pronged goal will be to train 125 Mississippi teachers and establish a self-sustaining program.

The Transition to Teaching program specifically recruits mid-career professionals, as well as recent graduates with degrees outside of education. It also assists participants to become teachers through alternative certification routes and helps place them in high-need schools. A unique feature of the program is its distance-learning structure. All of the classes are provided online, beginning with the summer of 2012.

Prior to entering the degree program, participants must take the state licensure examination in middle grades content knowledge.

The middle school alternate route degree program will be available to anyone eligible, and special incentives will be offered through the TERMS program to match interested new teachers with high-need schools in Mississippi. These incentives include a $5,000 scholarship and two years of mentoring after completion of the degree. TERMS participants also will receive $5,000 worth of equipment for their classroom, which will stay with the school. Scholarship recipients are required to teach in the schools for at least three years.

As they enter the degree program, participants will be hired in a teaching position in fourth through eighth-grade classrooms. They may remain in those positions after completing the degree.

Terry Jayroe, Devon Brenner and Anastasia Elder are co-principal investigators for the grant. Jayroe is associate dean of the College of Education; Brenner, professor and interim head of the curriculum, instruction and special education department; Elder, associate professor of educational psychology.

A primary reason MSU received the TERMS grant was its administration of an earlier Transition to Teaching program, which was created three years ago for high school teachers.

MSU will work with a consortium of 19 school districts to recruit and train new teachers. The program targets individuals with roots in their local communities, making it a “homegrown” effort that encourages teachers to remain in the area.

MSU’s TERMS grant is among 30 national teacher training projects funded this year. By the end of the five-year period, a total of nearly 4,800 new teachers are expected to be certified throughout the country.

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