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Frostburg State University’s Innovative Residency Program Prepares Teachers in Critical Shortage Areas

Boyce C. WilliamsIn October 2019, Frostburg State University (FSU) was awarded a five-year, $4.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the Maryland Accelerates: Teacher-Leader Residency for Inclusive Excellence program. This new program addresses Absolute Priority and Competitive Preference Priority I under the Department’s Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Program. By leveraging partnerships in high-need and rural schools, this innovative teacher-leader residency program will help realize State priorities in preparing and retaining highly effective teachers in the critical shortage areas of science, mathematics, computer science, English, and elementary education.

Modeled after the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (also known colloquially as the Kirwan Commission), the program includes a full-year practicum, mentorship, extensive classroom observation, and research opportunities with an emphasis on culturally-responsive pedagogy, mathematical problem-solving, and computational thinking followed by an extended induction program. Graduates of the program receive a Master of Arts in Teaching degree and are mentored and supported through their early years of teaching to develop competency-based practices to move them towards achieving National Board Certification.

The program, in partnership with Frederick County (FCPS) and Garrett County (GCPS) Public School systems, is operated by FSU College of Education.

The partnership addresses three overarching goals of the program:

  1. Accelerated Teaching Residency with Year-Long Clinical Experience. The accelerated Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) residency program will increase diverse teacher supply and accelerate professional growth through intensive and extensive field-based preparation with a fully integrated curriculum, nationally validated assessments, and evidence-based microcredentials documenting competency mastery.
  2. Teacher-Leader Pathways with Two-Year Induction. The MA partners will co-implement innovative teacher leadership programs for new and experienced teachers to improve teaching effectiveness with positive impact on student achievement, teacher retention, and teacher leadership advancement toward National Board Certification.
  3. MegaCommunity for Systemic Capacity and Linkage Building. The MA program will leverage a P-20 community of educators and educator supporters, including academic experts, policy makers, and industry leaders, to ensure that the accelerated residency program is successful and can be sustained after the TQP grant concludes.

Theresa Alban, superintendent of FCPS, stated, “Frederick County Public Schools serves a diverse population of more than 43,000 students from grades prek-12. It is our goal to equip each and every student to be an empowered learner and an engaged citizen to achieve a positive impact in the local and global community. The Maryland Accelerates program supports the development of teachers who are prepared to provide a high-quality education for our 21st century learners through a unique residency and induction program.

 We are excited to join this initiative to help better serve students in Frederick County and across Maryland.”

Barbara Baker, superintendent of GCPS, stated, “Engaging our students for a competitive future requires highly effective educators that have the expertise and training to help all students succeed and thrive. Garrett County Public Schools is proud to partner with Frostburg State University on the Maryland Accelerates program and its innovative approach to teacher-preparation. We believe that partnering with FSU will not only build capacity in our teachers but will also have an impact in narrowing the opportunity and achievement gaps for our students and our community.” 

The biannual Maryland Accelerates Leadership Institute is a critical component of the program and is designed to provide intensive professional development for program participants (teacher-residents, teacher-fellows, and teacher-mentors) as well as the opportunity to share program updates, lessons learned, and promising practices. When FSU was awarded the TQP grant and welcomed its first cohort of teacher-residents to the program in May of 2020, no one could have imagined the chain of events that would follow to include both racial and natural pandemics. Our nation is experiencing a renewed and intense focus on race, equity, and inclusion as its citizens battle a global public health crisis that disproportionately impacts people of color and highlights disparities in resources, while confronting the systemic racial injustice that has afflicted our nation for decades. Given the state of the nation, the inaugural Leadership Institute held in September 2020, addressed this head-on by focusing the keynote address provided by  AACTE Dean in Residence Leslie T. Fenwick, also dean emeritus at Howard University School of Education, titled ”Teacher Leadership in a New Era: COVID-19, Social Injustice, and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.”  

In respect to Fenwick’s address, it is worth noting that while 70% of children in public schools live in rural communities, these students remain underserved and unrepresented. We are aware that the industries that have kept rural America thriving are slowing dying off, for example farming and coal/steel mining becoming automated. Yet we are not fully capturing nor truly dealing with what is going on in rural America. This program allows us to focus on rural America by serving those forgotten in these small communities. The research and information garnered through the program’s data will inform policymakers and legislators to breathe life back into the heart of our country.  This grant program will develop and shape policy to better serve high-need and rural communities in Maryland and may even evolve into a blueprint for other states to follow.

Paired with group breakout sessions involving conversations about identity, race, ethnicity, social emotional learning and the pandemic, the institute raised awareness about these issues and fostered the tough conversations needed to confront this divide. Even though the event was virtual, it was well attended with representatives from the partnering districts, FCPS and GCPS  systems; teacher-residents currently in the program; leadership from the Maryland State Department of Education and the University System of Maryland; FSU administrators, faculty, and staff; the research and program evaluation consultants, MN Associates, Inc.; and the program/grant management consultants, edBridge Partners. Feedback collected from the post-institute survey indicated that the participants found the event to be exceptional with highly engaging and relevant presentations.

The second Maryland Accelerates Leadership Institute is tentatively scheduled for mid-June 2021, where these themes will be explored more in-depth and attendees will include members of both the inaugural cohort and the incoming cohort.

For more information on the Maryland Accelerates Teacher Residency Program, please visit the website at frostburg.edu/marylandaccelerates.

Boyce C. Williams is dean of the College of Education at Frostburg State University.

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