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New England News

Westfield State Recruits Home-Grown Teachers For Springfield Schools

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WAMC
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A state university in western Massachusetts and an urban public school system have announced a partnership to train more minority teachers in high- demand fields.

Westfield State University and the Springfield Public Schools have embarked on a “grow your own” initiative to recruit Springfield high school students of color to become teachers, provide a four-year university education, followed by a guaranteed job in the city’s public school system.

Westfield State interim president Elizabeth Preston said the program “Reach to Teach” will address diversity needs at both institutions.  Teachers in the Springfield Public Schools are predominately white, as are students in Westfield State’s education programs.

" So this is a perfect partnership that provides both of us with things we are looking for," said Preston.

Research has shown that when students have teachers who come from the same racial and cultural background as they do, they perform better academically, and are less likely to drop out.

Eighty-eight percent of Springfield’s public school students are non-white. Just 11 percent of the faculty and staff are non-white.   Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick said it is a “huge challenge” to recruit minority teachers.

" If you look at the pool nationally of minority candidates who pursue education as a  major in college it is just not there," said Warwick.

The partnership will focus on supplying teachers in high need areas including math, science and special education.

"Everyone has trouble recruiting for those fields, but for us to bring back kids who graduated from high school in Springfield who reflect the diversity of the city to teach here and raise their families here it is a win-win for the city of Springfield," said Warwick. " I am so appreciative of Westfield State."

Starting this fall, up to 20 eligible students from the Springfield public schools will be admitted to Westfield State to pursue studies that lead to a teaching license.  Graduates will be guaranteed a job in the Springfield Public Schools.  They must commit to teach in Springfield for at least three years.

Westfield State Foundation Executive Director Michael Knapik said scholarship funding of $2,500 has been pledged for at least two students, with a goal to provide funding for all the students in the program.

" We expect some funders to be very helpful with the Westfield State Foundation and the Springfield Public Schools to identify a pool of money over time,"  said Knapik.

Minorities have not entered the teaching profession in the same numbers as white people, according to Cheryl Stanley, Westfield State Dean of Education.

" It is incumbent on teacher preparation programs to market in a different way and talk about the rewarding experience teaching can be," said Stanley.

Only 11 percent of students in Westfield State’s undergraduate and graduate education programs this academic year are non-white.

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