With quality teachers in high demand, the partnership between UCF’s School of Teacher Education and Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) is an increasingly valuable and innovative resource for enhancing teacher recruitment, development and preparation.

According to the Florida Department of Education, there were nearly 4,500 teacher vacancies for the 2021-22 school year. Such information is collected from each school district and used to plan recruitment efforts.

Recognizing the critical need for teachers, faculty within the School of Teacher Education work with OCPS district leaders, instructional coaches and teacher leaders to develop innovative pathways for both preparing and retaining educators to teach in Central Florida’s urban schools, with a focus on the most vulnerable student populations.

One hallmark of this partnership, the Comprehensive Urban Teacher Pipeline program, was recently recognized by the Council for the Great City Schools with the Shirley S. Schwartz Urban Education Impact award. Presented during the council’s annual conference –– which was attended by more than 1,000 school administrators nationwide –– the honor recognizes partnership programs between universities and urban school districts that have a substantive impact on student learning. The council brings together 77 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems in a coalition dedicated to the improvement of education for children in the inner cities.

College of Community Innovation and Education Dean Grant Hayes (left), OCPS Chief of Staff Bridget Williams (center), and School of Teacher Education Director Andrea Borowczak (right) represent the partnership between UCF and OCPS. (Photo courtesy of OCPS)

“This award represents a proud moment for our School of Teacher Education and its faculty,” says Grant Hayes, dean of the College of Community Innovation and Education. “As a college, we strive to unleash the potential of each of our students by preparing them to become innovative and service-minded leaders in our community. It is wonderful to see our community and partnership-driven initiatives receiving national recognition.”

The Comprehensive Teacher Pipeline comprises three projects –– the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) program, Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy and the UCF-OCPS Noyce Program –– to impact teachers at all career levels.

The focus of the TQP program is to recruit, develop and retain high-quality teachers through UCF’s undergraduate teacher-education programs and prepare them to teach students in OCPS Title I schools. With the support of federal funds for the project, School of Teacher Education faculty teach within urban school sites and have collaboratively enhanced courses, program components, and service-learning experiences for teacher candidates.

The TQP program has experienced marked growth since its inception in Spring 2019, growing from just three teacher candidates and one partner school to 85 teacher candidates applying to teach at nine partner schools in Spring 2022. Many of the students who complete their internship through the TQP choose to pursue classroom careers both with OCPS and in Title I schools, and program graduates’ two-year retention rate in Florida schools is over 90%.

Through the Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy, K-8 teachers in OCPS Title I schools have the opportunity to earn a tuition-free Master of Education degree that focuses on elevating practices in mathematics and science areas. Many teachers in the program also acquire certification to supervise teacher candidates during the program, allowing students –– even those in the TQP program, if the teacher is working with a partner school –– to gain valuable experience in their classrooms. More than 100 OCPS teachers have earned graduate degrees through this partnership since its addition to the academy in 2018.

The UCF-OCPS Noyce Program is funded by a U.S. National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Track 3 grant. It provides 14 OCPS K-8 mathematics teachers with financial and resource support as they earn their doctorate in education with the goal of becoming instructional leaders in math and science. Almost all of the teachers in the Noyce program teach in Title I schools, and many are also Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy program alumni. Through multilayered coaching cycles, repositioning mathematics as a gateway, and mentoring underrepresented STEM education professionals, the program provides a structure and support for teachers to apply what they have learned in their urban classroom settings.

These projects combine to form the Comprehensive Urban Teacher Pipeline program and provide a holistic approach to recruiting, developing and retaining teachers to serve students in urban Title I schools.

“It is an honor to receive this national award that recognizes this tremendous partnership work, and it showcases our continuing work as leaders in teacher education.”  — Andrea Borowczak, director of the School of Teacher Education.

“The Comprehensive Urban Teacher Pipeline program is so valuable to our students,” Hayes says. “It provides them with unique opportunities to gain valuable career experience while simultaneously strengthening our existing partnerships through various avenues of teacher recruitment and leadership development.”

Andrea Borowczak, director of the School of Teacher Education, says such a partnership underscores the success of the program and the impact it has on both students and local schools. She adds that the award is a manifestation of teamwork.

“The School of Teacher Education is proud of the strong partnership we have with Orange County Public Schools,” Borowczak says. “This award highlights the efforts of our expert School of Teacher Education faculty and K-12 teachers, schools and administrators. It is an honor to receive this national award that recognizes this tremendous partnership work, and it showcases our continuing work as leaders in teacher education. This is truly a team achievement, and there are so many people to thank –– including Mary Little, Sarah Bush, Lisa Dieker, Lisa Brooks and Juli Dixon –– among so many others who contribute to these projects.”