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K-State Today

October 8, 2018

College of Education's Project KSTEP-Up awarded $1.6 million

By Patrice Scott

Lou Ann Getz, Tonnie Martinez, Todd Goodson and Susan Erichsen

The College of Education at Kansas State University was recently awarded a $1.6 million teacher quality partnership grant by the U.S. Department of Education to address teacher supply and retention in two Kansas high-needs school districts. The innovative program begins with high school teacher pathway programs and concludes with two years of professional development.

Project KSTEP-Up, an acronym for Kansas Statewide Teacher Education Pathway for Underserved and Place-bound, includes seven partners: The Kansas State Department of Education; K-State College of Education; K-State College of Arts and Sciences; Kansas City Kansas Community College; Seward County Community College; USD 500 Kansas City Kansas Public Schools; and USD 480 Liberal Public Schools. Todd Goodson, professor and chair of the department of curriculum and instruction, and Tonnie Martinez, assistant professor and coordinator of the Office of Innovation and Collaboration, were co-principal investigators. Lou Ann Getz, research assistant, and Susan Erichsen, grant specialist, assisted.

"I am thrilled for what this program means for the teaching profession in Kansas, for what it means for students who want to become teachers but aren't able to move to a college campus and for school districts that need highly prepared teachers," said Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education. "This is an example of collaboration at its finest, and I am very proud of all the visionaries it required to make this program a reality."

The site-based program allows for 60 future teaches, half in Liberal and half in Kansas City, to earn associate's degrees at their local community colleges and complete their education degrees through K-State online. The program targets underserved populations, individuals who want to teach in rural areas and others. While still in high school, participants will attend K-State's successful weeklong immersive camp, the Kansas Advanced Teacher Academy.

"We know there are capable people in urban and rural communities who cannot leave their homes and families to go to college," Goodson said. "This program brings the resources of K-State to these talented future teachers and gives them access to our faculty and programs. We believe it is part of our mission to find innovative ways to serve diverse populations."

Project KSTEP-Up is essentially divided into four steps: Step 1: Students in the diverse districts join their high school's teaching career pathway program; Step 2: Students take credit classes at Kansas City Kansas Community College or Seward County Community College and complete degrees locally; Step 3: Students complete K-State elementary education degrees after site-based, one-year clinical residency in high-need Local Education Agencies; and Step 4: New teachers are hired by high-need Local Education Agencies and complete two-year induction.

Martinez, co-principal investigator on the grant and former high school teacher in Southwest Kansas, said she could picture the faces of students who could be impacted by Project KSTEP-Up while writing the grant.

"I taught students who never would have had the opportunity to go to college and now they can attend K-State," Martinez said. "They were the brightest students but there were too many barriers. This program opens the doors of opportunity — from one side of Kansas to the other — and prepares teachers who reflect the children in their communities."