Drexel University School of Education Launches “Dragons Teach Middle Years” Teacher Training Program

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced it has given a $1.2 million grant to Drexel University to establish the Dragons Teach Middle Years (DTMY) program at its School of Education.  This innovative program provides an opportunity for undergraduates to become certified to teach middle school science and math—two of the city’s highest-need subject areas—while being trained specifically for the unique challenges of the urban classroom. At scale, the program will graduate 40 teachers annually, creating a new pipeline of excellent educators in Philadelphia schools.

“Thanks to this partnership, we have a rare opportunity to help meet the city’s desperate need for middle-school math and science teachers, launch Drexel graduates on rewarding careers, and develop an intensive teacher training program that will serve as a national model,” said Drexel University President John A. Fry. “I am profoundly grateful to the Philadelphia School Partnership for their confidence in Drexel’s School of Education.”

DTMY was founded in partnership with TNTP (a national leader in practice-based teacher preparation) to directly address the decline in certified teachers, particularly in urban settings.  In Pennsylvania, state level data clearly demonstrates this shrinking pipeline. In 2012, nearly 12,000 students completed teacher certification programs; by 2014, this number had dropped to 8,555 students.  The creation of a new “Middle Years” (grade 4-8) certification category in Pennsylvania in 2013 has made this problem particularly acute in middle schools.

“Principals across the city have told us they are struggling to find talented middle-years teachers, particularly in math and science, and we’re pleased to help address this need,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of the Philadelphia School Partnership. “Every child in every neighborhood deserves a chance to attend a great school, and that can’t happen without great teachers. On behalf of the staff and board of the Philadelphia School Partnership, we congratulate Drexel University and TNTP on this exciting initiative.”

Over the last two years Drexel, TNTP and local Philadelphia middle schools partnered together to create DTMY. PSP awarded a series of smaller planning and incubation grants in 2015 and 2016 to support the development and implementation of the program and to help build internal capacity at Drexel.  Over the past year, Drexel hired a full-time DTMY program manager and held multiple focus groups with eight schools to collaboratively develop core competencies aligned with state certification requirements. The parties also engaged with multiple external stakeholders to chart course plans, develop evaluations, hone recruitment strategies and identify schools to host student teaching assignments.

DTMY will target undergraduates currently enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences with high academic achievement, a commitment to social justice and experience working with low-income communities. DTMY has already begun to implement a robust recruitment plan including partnering with faculty and student organizations, visiting freshman seminar classes, launching a website, and holding recruitment events.

The inaugural cohort of students are already enrolled in their first program-specific course. The goal of this first cohort will be to graduate 20 certified teachers in 2020, and at scale the program will graduate a cohort of 40 certified teachers per year by 2022.  All graduates of DTMY will be certified as a middle grade teacher with dual certifications in Math and Science, Math and English, or Science and English.

In addition to receiving dual certifications upon graduation, DTMY students will also benefit from student teaching assignments that are significantly longer than the norm. Pennsylvania teaching certificates typically require programs to offer only 12 weeks of student teaching, but the DTMY residency program requires students spend nearly 30 weeks embedded in a Philadelphia classroom.  Beginning in the summer prior to their senior year, students will participate in a five-week Pre-Residency program modeled after the TNTP Teaching Fellows Summer Pre-Service Training.  Students who successfully complete the Summer Pre-Residency will enter a 24-week intensive clinical teaching residency in a local school, which takes the place of the traditional Drexel Co-Op program.  The residency is designed to give students the skills they need to be successful in Philadelphia schools, with a focus on four core competencies: high academic and behavioral expectations; effective and rigorous content instruction; cultural proficiency; and a growth mindset.

The grant from PSP will be administered over four years, covering program costs for both Drexel and TNTP up until graduation of the first student cohort.  At the conclusion of the grant period in 2020, Drexel has committed to fully fund DTMY and implement a transition plan to ensure the program will be able to stand on its own without the consultation of TNTP.  Both entities have also agreed to make all program materials and evaluation public to ensure the program can serve as a model for other innovative teacher training programs nationally.

About the Philadelphia School Partnership

The Philadelphia School Partnership is a nonprofit organization that funds the creation and expansion of high-quality Pre-K-12 schools in the City of Philadelphia to give more children access to a great education. PSP also facilitates the sharing of best practices among school leaders that improve the quality of education for students and empowers families with information about school options. PSP is raising $100 million in philanthropic funds to provide grants for the transformation, growth and startup of high-performing public and private schools in Philadelphia. It measures success by the number of students in Philadelphia who move out of failing schools to better-quality school options based on student academic outcomes.

About the School of Education at Drexel University:

The Drexel University School of Education prepares education professionals to lead and navigate others through change in classrooms, administration, research, and policy. Our values of diversity and inclusion, collaboration, social justice and equity, public scholarship, global citizenship and emphasis on civic engagement guide School of Education faculty in their integration of classroom-based and site-based learning as components of the School’s highly-ranked bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs. The School also offers a wide variety of certificate, certification and professional development programs to meet the needs of educators, administrators, and education professionals.

About TNTP:
TNTP believes our nation’s public schools can offer all children an excellent education. A national nonprofit founded by teachers, we help school systems end educational inequality and achieve their goals for students. We work at every level of the public education system to attract and train talented teachers and school leaders, ensure rigorous and engaging classrooms, and create environments that prioritize great teaching and accelerate student learning. Since 1997, we’ve partnered with more than 200 public school districts, charter school networks and state departments of education. We have recruited or trained more than 50,000 teachers, redefined critical education issues through acclaimed studies like The Widget Effect (2009) and The Mirage (2015), and launched one of the nation’s premiere awards for excellent teaching, the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. Today, TNTP is active in more than 30 cities. tntp.org

Supported by a $1.2 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership, the program will create a new pipeline of dual-certified, Middle-Years teachers trained specifically for the challenges of Philadelphia classrooms.