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Federal Teacher-Prep Grants Emphasize STEM, Common Core

The U.S. Department of Education wants its upcoming $35 million investment in teacher preparation to focus on two main areas: Producing effective teachers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, and preparing teachers to instruct to the Common Core State Standards.

That's the gist of a notice that will be published in Wednesday's Federal Register announcing the availability of new awards under the federal Teacher Quality Partnerships grant program—the first since 2010.

TQP is a competitive grant authorized under the Higher Education Act. It makes grants to teacher colleges, districts, and nonprofits that promise either to revamp their undergraduate teacher-ed. programming, or to establish "residency" programs. Residencies are typically for career-changers and couple a yearlong dose of student-teaching with coursework. 

The Education Department elected to give extra points to applications that meet one of two priorities: STEM and the CCSS.

Under the STEM priority, projects would work to increase the number of individuals traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields, such as women and minorities. The notice says that applicants should ensure that these candidates get an equal amount of STEM coursework as people who major in those fields outside of the college of education. 

As for the standards priority, it's important to note that the common core isn't actually named in the notice. But, the notice says that to win the extra points, applicants' projects must support "the implementation of internationally benchmarked, college- and career-ready academic standards held in common by multiple states," and there's only one set of those. For this priority, applicants must align programs with the standards and help translate them into classroom practice. (I wrote about some of the challenges with this kind of work in a recent Education Week story.)

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