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Winners of Federal Teacher-Prep Grants Include Many Familiar Names

Twenty-four colleges of education and their partners will share some $35 million in federal funds to improve their teacher-preparation programs, the U.S. Department of Education announced this afternoon.

And most of them will have at least some idea what to expect, given that nearly two-thirds of those winners—15 in all—received cash through the Teacher Quality Partnership program's 2009 and 2010 competitions. 

The category of re-ups includes the Boston Teacher Residency, several California State campuses, Teachers College at Columbia University, and Arizona State University, among others. (The full list of grantees can be found on the Education Department's website.)

The TQP grants, given out in five-year blocks, support either reforms to undergraduate preparation programs; to fifth-year programs that offer pedagogy skills after candidates have earned a bachelor's degree; or to "residency" programs, which are usually designed for career-changers and include a year of hands-on student teaching. This year's contest also required applicants to address either preparation for science, technology, engineering, and math, or for a set of common standards. Most of the winners addressed both, Education Department officials said.

In a press call with reporters, the federal officials said that the winning grants got the highest scores from a panel of judges. (The agency has not released the names of the reviewers.) They also emphasized the importance of funding both new grantees and scaling up previous winners' efforts.

The department received some 80 applications.

Still, it remains unclear how successful the former grants have been. Grantees are expected to use standard metrics when reporting results, but those don't appear to be posted on the Education Department website. Similarly, the agency contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to look at the 2009 grantees, but that effort hasn't yet released any work products. A handful of winners, such as the BTR, have conducted their own, independent evaluations.

Among the new crop of winners is the American Musuem of Natural History, New York  City's famed science museum. The museum's residency program got started with cash from New York's federal Race to the Top grant, and graduated its first class of teachers in 2013.

In announcing the winners, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tied the program to the Obama Administration's efforts to recruit and train 100,000 STEM teachers by 2020. That will help reduce a "gap in opportunity" in which too few disadvantaged students and students of color have access to rigorous courseworks in those fields. 

In far too many schools, a number of STEM subjects simply aren't being taught," the secretary said. "That is not fair to our students or ultimately to our nation." 

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