OUR OPINION: Creating a new kind of teacher education

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi jointly announced on Tuesday a benchmark program to develop unprecedented excellence among future teachers with the funding of 20 scholarships per year within the equivalent of honors colleges in the schools of education at both institutions.
The program, Mississippi Excellence in Teaching, MET, begins with five years of guaranteed financing from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson. Hearin was among the most successful business executives in Mississippi’s history.
The $12.9 million in funding will provide “full ride” scholarships for 20 students each year at each university, foreign and domestic travel to observe the methods in schools noted for excellence, and all technical and book support needed to earn a degree. The universities will hire additional faculty to help staff the curriculum, which adds prestige and academic heft to what’s traditionally been called teacher education.
The collaboration grows from a commitment made by Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones and MSU President Mark Keenum in 2010 to begin working together toward joint programs for academic excellence and economic development. The landmark cooperation was strongly encouraged by the CREATE Foundation and the Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi, both headquartered in Tupelo.
The MET announcement is the most substantial action to rise from the high-level discussions.
The honors colleges already operating at both universities have highly selective admissions standards, demanding course work and a challenging curriculum core. The same kind of standards will be used in the education honors curriculum.
All graduates of the MET program will be required to commit to five years of teaching in Mississippi, which could produce substantial numbers of exceptionally qualified new teachers in only a few years.
MSU Executive Director of External Affairs Kyle Steward said Wednesday Mississippi’s public universities’ offices in Jackson already has had inquiries about applications for the program, which will begin with the fall 2013 semester.
Excellence in teaching is on a parallel track with the highest standards and abilities in business, professions, the sciences and the arts – all of which rest on a foundation of effective, challenging and thorough education.
An honors college degree in education will help teaching reclaim its historic place among the professions, and, it is hoped, add economic value to teaching positions from the first year moving forward.
We hope the MSU/UM collaboration will produce more groundbreaking partnerships.