MSU to receive Gates Foundation grant

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Updated: 10/18/2013 2:18 pm
STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA) -- Mississippi State's World-Class Teaching Program is scheduled to share a major private grant to help educators become more efficient in the classroom.

Mississippi is among six states set to share a $3.74 million award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle, Wash.

The funding is provided to help states establish a support system for teachers pursuing National Board Certification--the teaching profession's measure of a highly accomplished classroom leader.

The university's WCTP is offered on both the Starkville and Meridian campuses, and it's also available at other higher education institutions in the Magnolia State.

Each institution's allocation is determined by the number of candidates enrolled in its program.

Currently, 3,420 Mississippi public school teachers, or 10 percent in the state, are among 102,000 nationwide holding board certification.

"To close the achievement gap and improve education for all students, we must ensure that every teacher in America is on a path to becoming an accomplished educator," said Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the Gates Foundation's national board.

A 2012 study by Harvard University's Strategic Data Project analyzed students taught by board-certified teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Among other findings, the report concluded students in certified teachers' classes are between one and two months more advanced in mathematics and English language arts than peers who were not taught by nationally certified instructors.

Mississippi is among the first states to benefit from the grant, due primarily to the state's having already made significant progress in establishing programs to support teachers seeking board certification.

"From piloting teacher merit pay programs to increasing teaching program entry standards and creating scholarships for students wishing to enter the teaching profession, Mississippi is taking strong steps in the right direction," Gov. Phil Bryant said in response to the grant announcement.

"This grant will help us support more teachers in pursuing accomplished standards, providing more students with the chance to learn and grow," Bryant added.

MSU's WCTP provides year-round assistance to teachers pursuing certification in all grades. Among the support areas is a pre-candidacy program in which participants reflect on their instructional methods and decide whether or not they are ready to continue working toward certification.

"This program should help them to better understand what is going to be expected when they get into the process," said Tempe O'Nan, MSU WCTP coordinator.

She said another course introduces the details and expectations of the certification process.

"The standards-study summer preparation course is a four-day, rather intense, look at the standards," O'Nan said. "Teachers compare National Board standards for their certificate area to what they are already doing in the classroom."

O'Nan said once teachers decide to begin the process, they enter the program's candidate support service, and they are assigned an individual mentor in the same area.

"It's nice to know that there is someone there to say 'good job,' or 'I like that idea; that sounds good,'" O'Nan said.
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