Special to The Dallas Examiner

The Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation recently launched Raising Texas Teachers, a program to provide $50 million over the next 10 years in scholarship funding for students committed to a career in teaching, and technical support for premier Texas teacher preparation programs.

The investment is part of H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt’s continued philanthropic commitment to public education in Texas. Earlier this year, Butt pledged more than $100 million to establish The Holdsworth Center, a leadership institute devoted to supporting and developing public school leaders.

The scholarship program will grow to include at least 500 teaching fellows annually from over 10 university teacher preparation programs. Each teaching fellow will receive $8,000 per year as part of the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers, as well as ongoing training and development opportunities, mentorship from sitting public school educators, and involvement in a statewide aspiring teachers network facilitated by Raise Your Hand.

The program will expand over time to include leadership development opportunities for the state’s top high school students interested in a career in education. Partner universities will also receive technical assistance support to increase the quality of teacher preparation in Texas.

“Research consistently shows that the strength of the teacher makes the biggest difference in influencing a student’s success,” Butt said. “To improve academic achievement, it is critical that Texas elevate the status of the teaching profession, strengthen the existing pool of aspiring teachers, and inspire our most talented high school graduates to consider a career in teaching.”

The world’s highest performing students live in countries where teachers are well-qualified, well-trained and enjoy widespread respect in society, according to the 2013 Global Teacher Status Index.

“No education system can be better than its teachers,” the report concluded. “Recruiting the brightest and best into teaching is a critical imperative in all nations, whatever their wealth or poverty.”

Today, prospective Texas educators are trained in a wide variety of settings, many of which do not require rigorous training in the classroom before stepping into the role of lead teacher.

“Too often, teachers are asked to learn on the job with too little formal training in the practice of teaching. We wouldn’t ask a pilot to learn on the job, nor a doctor without close supervision from an expert practitioner. The profession of teaching, and the education of our children, is no less important,” said Alison Badgett, executive director of Raise Your Hand Texas. “With Raising Texas Teachers, our goal is to support universities who are rigorously preparing students to address the needs of 21st century students, and to help them to recruit the best and brightest to the profession.”

University partners were selected through a competitive RFP process based on their capacity and commitment to deliver competency-based clinical preparation, and a willingness to establish strong collaborative relationships with districts where graduates teach. Selected universities include:

  1. University of North Texas-Dallas in Dallas

  2. Southern Methodist University in Dallas

  3. Rice in Houston

  4. Texas A&M University- Special Education program in College Station

  5. Texas Tech University in Lubbock

  6. Trinity University in San Antonio

  7. Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio

  8. University of Houston in Houston

  9. University of Texas Austin in Austin

  10. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley- Student Teacher Educator Preparation: University Partnership in Edinburg

The two Dallas universities selected to participate were grateful for the opportunity to help future teachers.

“Being selected as one of just 10 universities in Texas to be honored by Charles Butt and Raise Your Hand Texas is really a historic milestone for our young university, as we work to fulfill our mission to empower students, transform lives and strengthen communities,” said UNT Dallas President Bob Mong. “UNT Dallas will be awarded 20 full scholarships over the next four years to support two cycles of transfer students heading into the teacher preparation program of our Emerging Teacher Institute.”

Mong went on to thank the Butt family and HEB for their support of education in Texas and congratulated UNT Dean, Dr. John Gasko, and his team for their successful effort in securing the funds to help students successfully join the “noble profession” of teaching.

“North Texas has an enormous talent pool in its young adults, but many of them face financial and other obstacles if they want to pursue careers as teachers,” said Paige Ware, interim dean of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. “Through the Raising Texas Teachers grant, SMU’s next generation of aspiring teachers will not only have immediate scholarship support, they will also gain the long-term benefit of being shaped by a robust professional network of career educators who will support them within an increasingly wide community of education experts.”

A second cohort of emerging teacher preparation programs will receive technical assistance to improve their programs, and will be eligible for scholarship funding in future years.

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