Press Release - USM to Enhance Teacher Quality in PGCPS

November 2, 2000

University System of Maryland to Enhance Teacher Quality in Prince George's Schools with $4.1 Million from U.S. Department of Education

The University System of Maryland (USM) has been awarded $4.1 million by the U.S. Department of Education over five years to enhance teacher quality in Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS), one of the state's largest public-school systems. The USM will partner with three schools of education in the System - at the University of Maryland, College Park, Towson University, and Bowie State University - as well as with the PGCPS and Prince George's Community College, to improve the retention rate of new teachers in the school system while simultaneously professionalizing the teacher-development program. The USM program, known as Project LINC (Learning IN Communities) is one of eight recipients of the new teacher-training grants across the U.S., which were recently announced by the U.S. Department of Education.

The University System is actively engaged in creating synergies with and opportunities for interaction at the K-12 levels of education, according to USM Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg. The Chancellor said he has tallied well over 100 programs within the USM institutions that have at least a K-12 component, if not a primary purpose involving K-12.

These programs range from activities designed to offer students early exposure to college and boost student achievement in science and mathematics, to professional development workshops for teachers and principals. Providing such programs is part of a strategic effort by the USM to cultivate a seamless educational system.

"We are beginning to breach the walls that have existed for decades between university professor and eighth-grade teacher, for example," Langenberg said. "A long time ago it might have made sense to have that separation - professionalism, the amount of training it took to become a professor, and so on - but now that we see how important it is to begin a student's college preparation as early as the middle-school years, we know we must look at education as a broad continuum. It lasts from pre-school all the way through post-graduate training, and, in fact, the learning can go on throughout a person's life. I think those involved in that incredibly sophisticated process should be talking to each other and working together - it's as simple as that."

The goals of Project LINC are "simple," in that respect: 

  • Create an extended mentoring and induction program for new teachers;
  • Redesign teacher education via professional development schools and collaboration between arts and sciences and education faculty;
  • Recruit additional math and science teachers into the PGCPS with scholarships and stipends;
  • Infuse technology into teaching and learning with a kindergarten-through-college model.
Project LINC will unfold over the course of five years. At the end of that period it is expected that the number of new teachers in PGCPS who choose to remain on the job  will improve significantly - by as much as one-third or even one-half. Over the five years of the federal grant, the partnering institutions are expected to pick up an increasing percentage of the support for the project activities, until they become integrated into the "education culture" of Prince George's schools as well as in the participating USM institutions.

According to Nancy Shapiro, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the USM and project director for LINC, the first nine months will entail intensive planning at both PGCPS and the three participating schools of education at Bowie, Towson, and College Park. The three universities will begin to recruit approximately 20 education students per school into the program, while at the same time, students who are already student-teaching or otherwise preparing to start their first teaching jobs will be recruited into the mentoring program.

Project LINC will involve a variety of approaches to strengthening the quality of the teachers at PGCPS; for example, College Park plans to create a new master's certification program designed to attract teacher candidates with strong mathematics and science backgrounds into teaching. Also, through the grant funds, PGCPS will be able to dramatically expand its mentoring program to reach 100 newly hired teachers in the first year, and up to 400 new teachers by the fifth year of the grant. Towson University will partner with Prince George's Community College (PGCC) to create a unique opportunity for PGCC students to transition into a Towson teacher education program on the PGCC campus. Bowie State will expand its technology enhancement program in the schools, and its work to help certify provisional teachers in PGCPS. In addition, Oracle Corporation will contribute technology training, hardware, and software as part of Project LINC, and the American Academy of Sciences will offer science curriculum workshops in the public schools.

The first cohort of potential mentor-teachers at Towson, College Park and Bowie will be identified by the beginning of the upcoming semester.

"This grant involves many people and programs, all of which will be focused on building bridges between the universities and the Prince George's schools," Shapiro said. "Across the country there is an urgent need to recruit, prepare, and retain highly qualified teachers. With this grant, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized the University System of Maryland's commitment to making a difference in our own neighborhood. If we can create a nurturing, professionalized environment in these public schools, then the net effect will be more people, coming from a lot of different backgrounds, seeing teaching as a job not only worth taking, but worth keeping."

In a statement accompanying the news release announcing the teacher-training grants,  USDE Secretary Richard W. Riley said, "This program takes traditional teacher education off the campus and into the heart of the classroom and community."

Noted Langenberg: "Teachers in every discipline must be recognized as the professionals they are, by their peers, their schools, and by the communities whose young people are entrusted to their care. It's time we acted on that, before the teacher shortage teaches us a bitter lesson about what we choose to value. The timing of Project LINC, in that respect, could not be better."

Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739
Pager: 301/507-2316