Earlier this month, Stanford University announced the launch of the Stanford Teaching Fellows initiative. Under this fellowship program, the university will bear the entire cost of tuition for up to five teacher candidates every year in the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP).
The applicants to the STEP Class of 2016 will be the first set of candidates eligible for this award. The best five teacher candidates from the STEP Class of 2016 will be the first recipients of the Stanford Teaching Fellows initiative.
To identify the best teacher candidates, Stanford University will consider a host of factors including a combination of:
- Merit and,
- Commitment to serving under-served youth and communities
The university plans to notify the inaugural cohort of Stanford Teaching Fellows upon acceptance to STEP this spring.
It is worth noting that this new full-tuition fellowship is in addition to the university’s existing financial aid offerings. Moreover, teacher candidates also remain eligible for federal and state grants and loans, in addition to receiving support from Stanford. At present, the university offers an extensive package of financial aid to its students.
For example, the STEP also offers the Dorothy Durfee Avery Loan Forgiveness Program. Under this program, a teacher candidate eligible for the federal Perkins Loan could receive loans of up to $20,000 in financial aid. If the teacher candidate provides four years of services to US public schools, this program forgives the entire loan awarded. Similarly, about 97 percent of this year’s STEP class received direct scholarships that provided tuition support of up to $25,000.
STEP is a 12-month fulltime program that prepares future teacher leaders at the elementary and secondary levels. It has earned both national and international renown as an exemplary teacher education program. In 1998, the infusion of new faculty hires and new program leadership resulted in a major program redesign. The first multiple subject (elementary) cohort graduated in 2006. Since then, STEP has earned acclaim for the outstanding quality of its graduates and their impact on the field. Graduates from STEP typically demonstrate higher retention rates and leadership roles both within and beyond the classrooms.
To cite an example, dropout rates are a major concern in the education sector. In many cases, teachers, administrators and policy makers remain concerned about students dropping out from primary or secondary schools. However, the high numbers of student dropouts are not the only challenge that many educators confront.
About 40 percent or more of new teachers in the US quit the classrooms within the first five years of entering the profession. The reasons for teacher dropouts includes reasons such as:
- Lack of resources
- Lack of support
- Various testing and accountability pressures
- Social complexities and,
- Bureaucratic realities
Contrast this with the findings of a recent survey of graduates’ professional pathways. The survey covered 773 teacher candidates that graduated from STEP between 2002 and 2011. The survey found that:
- Around 74.6 percent of graduates are teaching in K-12 classrooms
- A vast majority of STEP graduates are working in the field of education as teachers or in other roles (between 76.4 percent to 96.7 percent)
- Of the 513 STEP graduates teaching in K-12 classrooms, 84.6 percent are working in public schools
- About 57.6 percent of STEP graduates are teaching in Title 1 schools (Title 1 denotes a federal program that provides supplemental funding to local districts for meeting the needs of at-risk and low-income students)
- Of the graduates currently working as teachers, about 95.7 percent have taken up at least one of various leadership roles
While the teacher retention rates are exceptional, the commitment to providing quality instruction to the underserved is equally admirable. It is unsurprising then that the program espouses core values such as:
- Commitment to social justice
- Understanding the strengths and needs of a diverse student population and,
- Dedication to equity and excellence for all students
Against this backdrop, the university’s announcement of a full-tuition fellowship for future teachers comes as an additional incentive for the graduates aspiring to be future teacher leaders.
Stanford University President John Hennessy mentions that many young people might want to take up teaching as a career because it satisfies them personally and spiritually. However, with a plethora of lucrative careers around, not many people have the courage to follow their ideals. In this situation, this new initiative is just another step taken by the university to encourage more youngster to take up teaching as a career.
Hennessy hopes that the Stanford Teaching Fellows serves to alleviate the financial barriers that deter some exceptionally gifted individuals from taking up teaching as a profession. This initiative will enable them to attract and retain the best and the brightest young people to STEP. In particular, it will help them identify those individuals who will be most likely to contribute significantly in their schools as well as in the broader educational system.