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6/3/11 - RCU's Teacher Academy cited as national model

A teacher preparation program for high school students developed by Mississippi State University's Research and Curriculum Unit is being highlighted as a national model.

The Teacher Academy is one of only two such curriculums nationwide being described by the Future Educators Association as an "excellent example" of a state-approved career and technical pathway. Launched in 2008 with four participating schools, the four-Carnegie-unit course this fall will involve more than a dozen.

Founded in 1937, the Future Educators Association is based in Bloomington, Ind. The organization has worked continuously to help recruit and develop prospective educators worldwide through the dissemination of innovative programming and relevant research. (For more, visit http://futureeducators.org/.)

RCU curriculum manager Betsey Smith, developer of the MSU-based academy, said research developed prior to the pathway's implementation indicated "a drastic industry need" in Mississippi for elementary, secondary, and career and technical teachers.

"Our research found about 350 teacher vacancies, and that 16 percent of teachers, or 5,300, were eligible for retirement," she said.

"The need is only increasing, so if we can get students interested at an earlier age then, hopefully, we will produce more teachers," she emphasized.

According to Mississippi Department of Employment Security data, the need for elementary, secondary and special education teachers is expected to climb from approximately 49,500 in 2004 to more than 55,200 in 2014--an 11.6 percent or 5,720-teacher increase.

Smith said the academy's curriculum was assembled from the direct input of numerous public school teachers, higher education professors and administrators, and State Institutions of Higher Learning professional staff.

Designed as a high school pathway for students planning careers in education and training, the program focuses on instructional strategies, communication skills, and assessment techniques. Participants also gain in-classroom field experience.

"The field observation is one of the best things about this curriculum," Smith said. "Students participate in classroom settings while still in high school, instead of having to wait until they are at a college or university."

Those who teach in the academy are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, with the program having industry certification from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

"If the FEA sees us as a model, then we are doing well, and hope to provide resources to many other states," Smith said.

HARRIET LAIRD | University Relations

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