Grand Prairie ISD-UTA Partnership Takes Aim at Teacher Shortage

Written by Loyd Brumfield, Communities Reporter, Dallas Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE — Attracting qualified instructors is difficult — and not just because there’s a shortage of teachers, University of Texas at Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari said Friday.

“What we really have is a shortage of students who want to be teachers,” Karbhari said as his university unveiled a partnership Friday with the Grand Prairie school district to produce more teachers — especially those with bilingual and English as a second language, or ESL, training.

UTA officials, Grand Prairie educators and students were on hand at Grand Prairie’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy to unveil the Education & Leadership Preparatory Program, which aims to train students beginning in their junior year of high school to become teachers — with the pledge of returning to Grand Prairie for jobs.

Here’s how it works: Qualified students at Grand Prairie High School, South Grand Prairie High School and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy will earn dual-credit courses at their respective campuses.

After graduating, they must continue their studies at UTA and major in education. They would become paid teachers’ aides in Grand Prairie and be offered pending contracts as full-time GPISD teachers once they receive their degrees and certification.

During the dual-credit phase of the program, GPISD will cover the costs for students enrolled in the program. Once they get to UTA, their tuition and fees will be the same as other students, but they will be eligible for specialized grants for students who agree to teach in high-need fields after they graduate.

The program — which will begin this fall — will accept 100 students at first, based on essay entries and individual interviews. UTA is involved in a similar teaching program with the Arlington ISD.

“Teaching is a noble goal, but it’s not for the faint of heart,” GPISD Superintendent Susan Simpson Hull said during Friday’s announcement. “This program isn’t for those who can’t be engineers, who can’t be doctors or lawyers. This is for our thinkers, for our leaders.”

The program has been about a year in the making and started with a conversation between Hull and Jeanne Gerlach, UTA’s associate provost for K-12 Initiatives, Hull said.

“UTA has been a longtime partner with us,” said Hull, adding that all GPISD graduates are accepted to UTA on at least a conditional basis. “This kind of grew out of that relationship.”

Karbhari said his school is ” very proud of what we’ve done,” referring to the College of Education’s 24th ranking nationally for elementary teacher preparation, according to the National Center for Teacher Quality. “It all started with a conversation. We’re always asking ourselves, ‘How do we attract the best and the brightest?’ and programs like this help us get closer to answering that question.”

Several students from the Young Women’s Leadership Academy watched Friday as Hull and Karbhari signed a memorandum of understanding to get the program off the ground.

“My mom was a substitute teacher, and I always admired my teachers,” sophomore Jadan Bowens said. “I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a teacher, but I’ve never heard of anything like this until today.”