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STEM Teacher Fellowship Program Grows With New Jersey Plans

Backed by nearly $9 million in private grant dollars, New Jersey is the latest state to sign onto an initiative aimed at recruiting and preparing more top talent for teaching in the STEM disciplines.

Earlier this month, Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced that his state would launch a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program. The effort not only seeks to bolster the ranks of high-quality STEM teachers in high-need schools, but also to transform university-based teacher preparation, including with extensive "clinical experiences" in public school classrooms, analogous to the training doctors receive.

With the announcement, New Jersey joins Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, which already have established Woodrow Wilson fellowship programs. I took a closer look at the Midwestern work in an EdWeek story on the STEM programs last year.

Fellows in the New Jersey program will receive $30,000 stipends to use while earning a master's degree. In exchange, they must commit to teach in a "high-need" urban or rural school in New Jersey for three years, a press release says, and will continue to receive ongoing mentoring once in the classroom.

"New Jersey overproduces elementary school teachers but underproduces middle- and high-school STEM teachers, and 30 to 40 percent of New Jersey teachers leave the profession during their first three years in the classroom—more in high-need districts," said Arthur Levine, the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which developed the fellowship program. So there's a genuine need for these new teachers, and for innovative preparation that will help keep them in the classroom."

At least four more states are in talks with the organization about starting up such a program, Levine said in the press release.

Five higher education institutions in New Jersey are participating in the program, creating "model master's level teacher preparation programs," the press release said, including the College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, Rowan University, Rutgers University-Camden, and William Paterson University. In addition, a dozen school districts will take part, including those for Trenton, Newark, and Camden.

The New Jersey program has financial backing from a number of private funders, including the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Educational Testing Service.

As I noted in my story last year, the Woodrow Wilson program, first announced in 2007, is among a growing number of ventures to tackle the challenge of getting more teachers into the classroom who have both strong STEM content knowledge and mastery of the pedagogical skills to teach those disciplines effectively. Others include the Math For America fellowship program; UTeach, a STEM-preparation model first developed at the University of Texas at Austin; the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation's fellowship program; and the federal Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which has provided some aid to Math For America and UTeach.

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