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EDUCATION REPORT — Teaching Fellows - 2003-08-21

Broadcast: August 21, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

New York City has the largest public school system in the United States. The city Department of Education operates one-thousand-two-hundred schools. Three years ago, the city badly needed more teachers. It especially needed good teachers to work in poor schools. To help deal with the teacher shortage, educators launched the New York City Teaching Fellows program.

The program chose two-hundred-fifty people from other jobs to study to become classroom teachers.

Today, more than three-thousand of these Teaching Fellows work in New York City schools. Most of them serve in the Bronx and Brooklyn areas of the city. They work in schools where students are performing poorly.

Many of these Teaching Fellows teach mathematics, science or special education. Special education is for students who have learning disabilities or other problems. The schools have the greatest demand for teachers in these subjects.

Teaching Fellows did not study education in college, like a lot of other teachers. They were lawyers, nurses, technology experts, business people and others. They prepare for their new occupation by taking intensive courses for about two months in the summer.

During that time, they study educational ideas and methods. They also work in classrooms under supervision of people who have taught for years. They meet with advisors to discuss their progress. Then they begin work as teachers.

While doing so, the Teaching Fellows also attend local universities to earn a master’s degree. These studies help them become accredited -- officially approved -- as teachers. Most of their expenses are paid through the program. The national service organization AmeriCorps also may help if its budget permits.

Programs that put new teachers in classrooms faster than usual are spreading. Several communities have started them. For example, the city of Washington began a Teaching Fellows program in two-thousand-one.

Many schools in the nation's capital have poor records and have needed teachers. Last fall, one-hundred Teaching Fellows were at work. At first, some school directors said they feared that the new teachers might not be well prepared. But officials say many school directors now want to consider hiring them.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.