The Rockford School Board tonight approved an innovative plan with Rockford University to recruit teachers and build a workforce from our own student body. Ensuring RPS 205 has outstanding teachers in every classroom is a key to success, but attracting and retaining talented teachers is a challenge. This partnership is designed to attract RPS 205 students to the teaching profession specifically to work in RPS 205.
The program begins in the middle school with seventh and eighth graders discussing a teaching career. It continues in high school with an education pathway, then transitions into a college degree program through Rockford University. “We’re fortunate to have a great partner in Rockford University that sees the value in our students,” said Superintendent Ehren Jarrett. The hope is to continue the program through teacher certification and employment with RPS 205. Then graduates can continue as RPS 205 teachers in a graduate program through Rockford University.
“This long-term investment in our students is the best way to ensure a consistent talent pipeline, made up of our own best and brightest students,” Jarrett said.
It’s an investment in the district’s workforce and a step toward creating a workforce that reflects the community’s diversity. From a student perspective, it makes a challenging profession like teaching look more appealing. The partnership could be a model for other high school pathway initiatives.
More about the partnership: The plan has been in the works for more than a year with support from RPS 205 administrators, School Board members, Rockford University and the Rockford Education Association. Officials are still working out details; the intent is to be fully operational by the 2018-19 school year. The program includes four phases:
Middle School: RPS 205 will work with seventh and eighth graders to develop their interest in working in the education field. High School: RPS 205 will create a three-year teaching pathway for 80-100 students that complements the high school academy model and pathways. Students can participate in one course each year in grades 10, 11 and 12. This pathway includes a senior Capstone course for dual credit – high school and college credit – taught by both Rockford University and RPS 205 staff.
College: RPS 205 graduates of the Education Pathway who meet admission criteria can enroll at Rockford University and receive a special financial aid package that allows for discounted tuition toward a four-year teaching degree, making it accessible to more RPS 205 students. For students with high financial need (determined through the FAFSA), the cost would be $5,000 a year; students with no financial need would pay $10,000 a year. Officials estimate about 20 students will participate in this plan. While attending Rockford University, students will be able to work with RPS 205 for summer school or extracurricular activities to help pay for tuition. After completing the required coursework, participants would student-teach at an RPS 205 school. When they complete their degree, these 20 alumni would be among the strongest candidates for teaching positions in RPS 205.
Graduate Program: If hired in RPS 205, program graduates could receive a master’s degree in urban education cost-free from Rockford University. They could enroll as early as the following spring. The program includes an agreement for teachers in the program to continue working for RPS 205 for a specific amount of time; possibly as long as four years.
This partnership is a strong, long-term commitment from RPS 205 and Rockford University to students and the Rockford community.
“I can hardly think of anything that would be more exciting as an educator than seeing someone that you have taught and mentored come up to join the profession in your own institution,” REA Vice President Paul Goddard told the School Board. “It gives me goose bumps. This opportunity is really thrilling for me as an educator in the district. … This is the way to do it right.”
The opportunity to receive both a graduate degree and an undergraduate degree at a total cost of $20,000 – receiving, in essence, a $142,000 value for $20,000 – is a powerful incentive for students to consider staying in Rockford.
“Rockford University and RPS 205 have partnered on a number of items over recent years that logically pool our collective resources to strengthen Rockford’s educational foundation for the benefit of all citizens,” said Rockford University President Dr. Robert Head. “The Education Pathway is a continuation of those efforts with the goal to provide RPS 205 a pipeline of teachers who are naturally invested in this community and thus, more likely to remain. This is a powerful initiative that reinforces Rockford University’s commitment to providing greater access to high-quality affordable education, and one that I am proud to see come to fruition.”
Tentative timeline of events:
- Fall 2017: RPS 205 graduates will fill 20 seats in the bachelor program at Rockford University.
- Spring 2017: First class of 20 RPS 205 employees sign up for graduate work in urban education through Rockford University.
- Fall 2017: High school students enroll in the Education Pathway.