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Pennsylvania Department of Education Names Duquesne "Center for Teaching Excellence"

Gov. Rendell Invests $1.2 Million to Help PA Teachers Earn National Training, Certification

Secretary of Education Gerald L. Zahorchak today announced that Duquesne University has been selected as one of four Centers for Teaching Excellence to help Pennsylvania teachers pursuing the profession’s gold standard for excellence: certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

Improving the quality of classroom instruction is one of the most effective ways to improve student achievement, which is why Governor Rendell’s initiative will increase the number of Pennsylvania’s board-certified teachers by as much as 200 percent.

“Great teachers are the first and most important component in any successful educational setting, and we know that students of board-certified teachers achieve at higher levels,” said Zahorchak. “That’s why I am proud to announce this new Center for Teaching Excellence. Thanks to Governor Rendell’s leadership, we will help as many as 500 more teachers earn National Board Certification and boost student achievement through this nationally-recognized, high-quality, professional-development program for master teachers.”

“Our School of Education, through our Leading Teacher Program, prepares future teachers to excel in the teaching field with the highest standards of academic technique and professionalism. Our education graduates are known not just for teaching, but for inspiring and leading their students through the exciting journey of learning,” said Duquesne President Charles J. Dougherty.  “We’re pleased and find it fitting to have been selected as the Southwest region’s home for this new effort to improve teacher quality in kindergarten through twelfth grade.”

Independent studies have shown that students of board-certified teachers achieve at greater levels; 7 to 15 percentage points higher, according to one study.

Grants of $75,000 have been awarded to establish Centers for Teaching Excellence on the campuses of Gannon, Duquesne, Temple, and East Stroudsburg universities. Geographically targeted to cover each region of the commonwealth, the centers will work closely with local school districts to recruit high-quality candidates and provide a location for NBPTS-required mentoring, group work, and research activities. Centers will also engage the local business community to help fund privately-donated scholarships for local NBPTS candidates.

“I am very proud that the School of Education has been selected for this honor because it so clearly validates the fundamental approach we take to preparing educators—in our undergraduate curriculum, the Leading Teacher Program, as well as in graduate programs—here at Duquesne” said Dr. Olga Welch, dean of the School of Education.

Priority will be given to Centers for Teaching Excellence candidates who are employed in struggling schools and to those seeking certification in early childhood education, secondary math and/or science.

The Centers for Teaching Excellence is part of Governor Edward G. Rendell’s latest professional development initiative to boost student achievement by improving teaching quality. Governor Rendell’s $1.2 million investment will help teachers earn National Board Certification and also establishes the Centers for Teaching Excellence to recruit and support candidates.

“In today’s global economy, Pennsylvania needs the best teachers to develop the best students; young people who are able to truly compete and succeed with other nations in the new economy,” Zahorchak said. “Governor Rendell is pushing to drastically increase the number of teachers who reach the revered ranks of board-certified master teachers because their students will greatly benefit. The skills they hone will impact the lives of thousands of students throughout the commonwealth so that they may reach greater heights.”

Governor Rendell’s investment provides stipends of $1,250 each to cover half the tuition costs for qualifying candidates seeking NBPTS certification (the other half is covered by federal stipends). The funding will also reimburse school districts for leave time of up to three school days for candidates to complete assignments, prepare for exams and participate in mentorship opportunities during the year in which they are earning NBPTS certification.

“Going through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification process was one of the most meaningful professional development experiences of my teaching career,” said Melissa Butler, a first-grade teacher at Helen S. Faison Arts Academy in Pittsburgh. “The process influenced the depth of reflection on my own teaching. It also taught me a method for focusing on my instruction that allows me to make critical decisions that impact how thoroughly my children learn throughout the day.”

The centers will be fully operational this month. Interested candidates can visit the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Web site, www.nbpts.org, or the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Web site, www.pde.state.pa.us, for more information.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.