Saturday, July 9, 2016

History of the Kansas City, Kansas Teaching Fellows

The Kansas City, Kansas Teaching Fellows began in 2000 as a partnership between Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, Pittsburg State University, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The program was developed and facilitated by The New Teacher Project of New York to offset the lack of teachers for high-needs schools. The Kansas State Department of Education approved the alternative licensure program.

Between the years of 2000 and 2010, the KCK Teaching Fellows recruited high-performing individuals from other professions to teach in the high-needs classrooms of KCK Schools. We prepared and hired more than 200 teachers for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools’ elementary and secondary classrooms during that time period. With Fellows, the district was able to staff vacancies that had been filled by long-term substitutes for many years.

In the early years of the program, nearly every high school math and science department consisted almost entirely of Fellows. During this same time period, the overall achievement rates of the district rose from 3% to 60%. While the initial need was for science and math teachers, over time, we also accepted Fellows for elementary positions, and for all content areas, including English, Social Studies, Spanish, Business, Fine Arts, and Family and Consumer Sciences.

At first, the school community questioned whether alternatively certified teacher candidates could perform as well as traditionally prepared educators. The teaching fellows’ first year was so successful that the school community began to embrace the teaching fellows program as a way to provide a highly qualified teacher in every KCKPS classroom. The selection process identifies candidates who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their career or educational experience.

All of the applicants selected participated in a six-week summer boot camp experience which included teaching district summer school classes in the morning and taking graduate-level classes in the afternoon or evening. The summer boot camp was taught by district personnel who prepared these teacher candidates for teaching in high-needs schools, and meeting the needs of our students.

Again, in 2016, school districts are beginning to feel the pressure of another teacher shortage, not only in KCK but across the state of Kansas and throughout the nation. KCKPS, with our Pittsburg State University partner, has re-ignited our successful KCK Teaching Fellows program for the 2016-2017 school year in order to make sure our students have the qualified teachers they need.

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