Master’s degree students at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development can receive free tuition in exchange for teaching at some of Metro’s lowest-performing middle schools, under a new partnership announced Monday.
Peabody’s new “Master’s in Teaching and Learning in Urban Schools” program will welcome 24 students beginning this summer, with plans to train the inaugural class in the fields of math, science and literacy. After two years in the classroom, students will leave Peabody with a master’s degree and are committed to teach at least three years at still-to-be-determined underperforming Metro middle schools.
The program — designed to produce at least three 24-member groups of Metro teachers — is fueled by a discounted tuition of $13,000 offered by Peabody administrators, an amount to be paid by a combination of private dollars, raised by nonprofit organizations such as the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, along with federal grants.
“This is unusual,” Director of Schools Jesse Register said. “To be able to offer a free master’s degree from the best school of education in the country is pretty special. And to be able to focus on areas of need for us — middle school math, science and literacy — we’re ready to get the show on the road.”
Register said any graduate who chooses to leave his or her Metro school before they’ve completed three years of teaching would be required to pay back the scholarship, with the idea being to ensure the program produces a lasting effect.
“My hope is that we’re not talking about a three-year program,” Register said. “My hope is that we’re talking about an ongoing program where we really build us a very strong cadre of teachers.”
Camilla Benbow, dean of education and development at Peabody, said those seeking admission into the program would be held to the same application standards as other Peabody students. Applicants must already hold their teaching licenses.
“All the students will teach in Metro classrooms while pursing their studies,” Benbow said. “They will be coached in their classrooms throughout the program to ensure they are using the most effective teaching strategies.”
Peabody educators designed the 30-hour curriculum to address the challenges of urban education, which Benbow said reflects the rapid pace of change in Davidson County.
“We hope that these teachers will be part of instructional improvements that echo throughout Metro schools,” she said.