University of Virginia Selected for National Teaching Fellowship Program

Dec. 19, 2007 — The University of Virginia is one of four institutions selected to participate in a new program developed by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to overhaul teacher education and encourage the most talented college graduates to seek teaching careers in high-need classrooms.   

The Leonore Annenberg National Teaching Fellowship — the equivalent of a "Rhodes Scholarship" for teaching — will go to outstanding recent college graduates and career-changers who agree to work for three years in urban and rural secondary schools serving high proportions of disadvantaged students.

Annenberg Fellowships will provide a $30,000 stipend and one year of graduate education at U.Va.'s Curry School of Education or at Stanford University, the University of Washington and the University of Pennsylvania. According to the organizers, the four universities were selected because of their exemplary graduate education programs, existing partnerships with high-need schools and their commitment to follow-up mentoring and rigorous evaluation.

"We are honored to be selected as one of the inaugural participants in the Woodrow Wilson/Leonore Annenberg National Teaching Fellowship Program," said University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III. "Preparing skilled educators to teach the nation’s children is one of the most important functions of any university, and certainly of the University of Virginia. This fellowship support will enable the College of Arts & Sciences and the Curry School of Education to work together to educate and equip the next generation of effective teachers."

The fellowship is funded by a $5 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation and a $1 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Over three years, the fellowship will produce 100 Annenberg Fellows, 25 at each institution. The first Annenberg Fellows will be named in spring 2008, will begin master's degree work later that academic year and enter classroom teaching in 2009.

Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education, said that the new program is a natural fit both for U.Va. undergraduates and for the Curry School.

"The Annenberg Fellowship program will truly enable us to support the best of our students in working toward successful teaching careers and to provide leadership in creating this pathway to public service in education," Pianta said.

U.Va.'s plan for implementing the program will build on the strengths of collaboration on teacher preparation that have been a hallmark of the Curry School and U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences for more than 15 years. The collaboration has been most visible in recent years in the Carnegie-sponsored "Teachers for a New Era" initiative.

Pianta noted that U.Va. has a very high rate of interest in teaching among its undergraduates, as shown by large number of students who participate in Teach for America and who take other alternative routes to teaching.

"Many of our undergraduate students enter teaching each year through alternative routes, and U.Va. is thus very fertile ground for the fellowship program to find bright and talented undergraduates who are also motivated to teach," he said.

In addition, the Curry School has strong relationships with local schools. Pianta said that the Annenberg Fellows from U.Va. will be placed in both middle school and high school classrooms in Charlottesville both during the summer following their selection to the program and then throughout the following year where they will be enrolled in an intensive student teaching experience.

Once the students have received the master's of arts in teaching degrees, they will enter a three-year induction during which they will continue to have close relationships through what Pianta describes as a "dual mentorship" approach that will take advantage of existing Curry strengths in the evaluation of effective teaching practices.

"Each fellow will have a mentor in the Arts & Sciences content discipline and a pedagogically focused mentor," said Pianta. "Both will be involved in regular observations of and interactions with the student."

According to Pianta, the Annenberg Fellowship program will galvanize the Curry School's efforts on three fronts: engaging undergraduates with an interest in teaching and public service, building model programs of promoting effective teaching and studying the mechanisms by which effective teachers can be produced.

In its announcement of the program, Woodrow Wilson cites a series of critical needs that the Annenberg Fellowships will seek to address. These include the need to replace a significant proportion of the teacher workforce because of historic turnover in the profession, the fact that hard-to-staff schools suffer higher-than-average turnover rates because new teachers often lack preparation and mentoring, and the fact that teacher preparation programs are highly uneven.

"The fellowships are a direct response to the nation's most urgent education challenges: closing the achievement gap and preparing a sufficient number of highly effective teachers who can serve students in high-need urban and rural schools," said Arthur Levine, the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.