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WMU part of STEM initiative announced by Obama

Jan. 6, 2010

WASHINGTON--Western Michigan University is part of a new effort unveiled today by President Barrack Obama to develop an elite group of teaching fellows charged with improving math and science education in community school districts across the state.

At a White House ceremony, Obama lauded the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's new Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship as a model program and named the six Michigan universities, and five Michigan school districts selected to be part of the effort. The fellowship program, funded with $16.7 million from the Kellogg Foundation, will train and place in those five districts a corps of teaching fellows who will promote education in what are known as the STEM disciplines--science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"America's leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in science, math and engineering," said Obama. "That's why I'm pleased to announce the expansion of our 'Educate to Innovate' campaign today and applaud the several new partnerships launched that will help meet our goal of moving American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade."

Six universities, five school districts chosen

The president recognized the Kellogg Foundation's Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship as one of the new partners of the "Educate to Innovate" campaign and identified six universities that have been selected to participate in the program. In addition to WMU, they are Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, University of Michigan--Ann Arbor and Wayne State University.

The five school districts in which new teaching fellows trained at the six universities will be placed are:

  • Battle Creek Public Schools
  • Benton Harbor Public Schools
  • Detroit Public Schools
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Kalamazoo Public Schools

Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has scheduled a press conference at the state Capitol Thursday, Jan. 7, to discuss the development. She will be joined by the six university presidents and the five superintendents of the school districts in which the new teaching fellows will serve.

240 teaching fellows to be trained

The fellowship program will provide promising future teachers with an exemplary, intensive master's degree program in education and place those teaching fellows in hard-to-staff middle and high schools for a minimum of three years. The fellowship will prepare 240 teachers for two years beginning in 2011. Over the course of the program, approximately 90,000 students will receive high-quality instruction in the critical STEM subject areas from teaching fellows in their first three years in the classroom.

The fellows, who will be announced in spring 2011, will receive a $30,000 stipend while they complete the program. They will study a curriculum that is rooted in subject matter, but that also covers adolescent development and learning, working with parents and communities, and classroom management.

The fellows can be college seniors, recent graduates or career changers. The current market downturn in Michigan has forced many experienced engineers and professionals out of the workforce, making available a talented pool of workers who can share their knowledge and depth of experience with the state's students in formal learning settings. Interested fellowship applicants should contact wwteachingfellowships@woodrow.org.

Beginning in fall 2012, the first team of fellows will be placed in the five school districts selected and receive intensive support and mentoring to encourage them to continue teaching as a long-term career. Marks of success for the program will be the fellows' retention in teaching as well as student learning outcomes in the fellows' classrooms.

Strengthening state and national economy

Joining the president Jan. 6 at the White House event were Dr. Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and a respected expert on teacher education, and Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Speirn said the fellowship program is in keeping with the Kellogg Foundation's mission to improve learning conditions for vulnerable children, especially in its home state of Michigan, where there are enormous challenges.

"At the Kellogg Foundation, we look to support innovative partnerships that will help create the kinds of schools that all children deserve," he said. "Strengthening students' skills in math and science is necessary to strengthen our state--and nation's--economy."

Levine said, "America's schools of education are being asked to rise to the challenge of preparing a new generation of teachers--educators who can teach the most diverse population of students in the nation's history to meet the highest standards ever demanded by our schools."

Several factors were considered as part of the process of selecting the universities that will participate in the fellows program. They include:

  • Commitment to the goals and standards of the fellowship
  • Capacity to establish a world-class math and science teacher education program
  • Existing relationships between the universities and surrounding urban or rural school districts
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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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