Olathe, Kan. – MidAmerica Nazarene University is one of 28 universities nationwide selected to receive funding to transform teacher preparation programs through the new five-year Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants allocated through the U.S. Department of Education. The TQP grant funding of $6.66 million will assist MNU in developing initiatives to address the challenges rural southwestern Kansas school districts have in recruiting teachers, training teachers for the rural setting and retaining teachers already serving in rural settings.
The 28 colleges and universities awarded funding was announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Sept. 30. MidAmerica Nazarene University, with just over 1,700 students, joins other universities such as Arizona State, UCLA, Ohio State, Georgia State, Indiana University, and Old Dominion in the development of teacher education preparation programs that will prepare teachers for the demands of future classrooms.
MNU was ranked 8th in the amount funded through the Teacher Quality Partnership grants.
"It is an honor for MNU to be funded alongside much larger institutions, and step forward with this initiative to provide quality young educators in rural areas,” says MNU President Ed Robinson. “The community partnerships the grant will help us pursue are consistent with our commitment to innovation and servant leadership. We are committed to keeping the public trust and maximizing the use of the funds to make a difference for P-12 education in the state."
Dr. Linda Alexander, Interim Dean of the School of Education and Counseling, emphasized that MNU intentionally focused its program plans on rural school districts in southwestern Kansas. Many MNU students come from those areas and want to return there for their teaching careers, Alexander says, and MNU intends to develop a teacher preparation program that is sensitive to rural school districts
“We want our teacher candidates to be prepared to meet the unique challenges of teaching in rural settings. Students residing in these areas should have access to the same caliber of teachers as their counterparts in the more heavily populated and resource-rich districts,” Alexander says.
Through this grant opportunity, a model teacher preparation program for rural schools may be duplicated in other areas of the Midwest, Alexander says.
The program is known as PERK: Preparing Educators for Rural Kansas. It will develop a consortium that includes six high-need, rural Kansas school districts: Copeland USD 476, Deerfield USD 216, Lakin USD 215, Rolla USD 217, Stanton USD 452, and Sublette USD 374. Three community colleges, Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College and Seward County Community College will also be part of the consortium. Also supporting the PERK program: the Kansas Dept. of Education (KSDE), and the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center in Sublette, Kan.
Research shows the identified school districts face unique challenges recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers., Statewide, for example, the Kansas State Department of Education says the average number of core content courses that are not being taught by “highly qualified teachers” is 6.63%, but in the PERK-identified districts the average is 22%.
Over the next five years, PERK will implement innovative ways to recruit, train and retain teachers in the designated school districts in southwest KS. Some of the innovative aspects of the PERK program:
At the end of the five-year program, in July 2014, MNU projects at least 40 teachers will be trained and hired within the six designated school districts, along with at least 100 mentors trained and 100 new in-service teachers mentored.
MNU is already planning for the continuation of the program after the $6.66 million of USDE funding is dispersed, according to MNU’s Alexander. The broad-based partnerships that will be built between the PERK partners and the southwestern Kansas communities, churches and civic organizations lend themselves to long-term sustainability.
MidAmerica Nazarene University is a private, liberal arts university offering more than 40 undergraduate degrees and adult degree completion, as well as five professional graduate degrees in business, education, and counseling. MNU is located on a 105-acre campus in Olathe, Kan., and recently opened a location in Liberty, Mo., for adult and graduate programs, including a RN-BSN program.
Contact Information for MNU Personnel Pertinent to the Grant:
Dr. Linda Alexander, InterimDean, School of Education and Counseling
Dr. Steve Ragan, Vice President for Academic Affairs
General Information: www.mnu.edu
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