Western Carolina, 5 WNC school systems receive “No Child Left Behind” grant

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University has received a grant of $331,416 for a project with five Western North Carolina public school systems that is designed to broaden the knowledge and skills of teacher mentors and improve the retention rate of new teachers in North Carolina.

Western will partner with the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and the Asheville City, Cherokee County, Clay County, Madison County and Swain County school systems through the grant, awarded by the University of North Carolina Division of University-School Programs and Center for School Leadership Development under the national No Child Left Behind Act.

Western is among five UNC campuses awarded more than $1.5 million in NC QUEST (Quality Educators through Staff Development and Training across North Carolina) grants. The statewide program is designed to fund partnerships between education and arts and sciences programs at UNC campuses and school systems with large populations of students in poverty. It will focus on preparing, training and recruiting highly qualified teachers, paraprofessionals and principals.

Western’s partnership, Project SPACE (Supporting Pedagogical And Content Expertise), addresses several of the problems with current mentoring programs – including lack of resource commitment, mentoring skills, and pedagogy and content knowledge – and incorporates several of the components of successful mentoring programs, said Michael Dougherty, dean of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions.

“Project SPACE uses a creative approach to more effectively support the professional development of beginning teachers and their transition to the classroom,” Dougherty said. “The idea is to focus on broadening and deepening the knowledge and skills of mentor teachers so they can be more helpful to the beginning teachers they coach, thereby improving the chances beginning teachers will succeed and stay in the profession.”

Specialists at NCCAT will conduct a three-day seminar for mentors and beginning teachers focusing on strategies to use when working with children and adults living in poverty. In addition, faculty members from WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, and the College of Arts and Sciences will provide training in teaching skills and content knowledge.

“This is just one more initiative by Western and its partners to ensure that the children of our region have qualified teachers who stick with teaching as a career,” said Dougherty.

The project will begin June 1 of this year and continue through Sept. 30, 2004.

“I am so proud we received this grant,” said Jeanette F. Hedrick, superintendent of Cherokee County Schools. “It is a positive for our region when so many funds are being cut. Beginning teachers need ongoing relevant support. Project SPACE will cement some of the segregated mentor programs and will provide much needed systematic support to beginning teachers.”

Grants were awarded based on evaluations by a national review panel.

“We are very excited that these institutions, in partnership with high-need school systems, will have the opportunity to significantly improve teacher and principal quality in our state,” said Richard Thompson, UNC system vice president for University-School Programs.

For more information about Western’s Project SPACE or any of the university’s initiatives to support the profession of teaching, contact the College of Education and Allied Professions at telephone (828) 227-7311.