Paving New Rhodes
Published in Inside - Volume X, No. 3
By Ryan Brenizer
It's probably the one statement you could get everyone involved in K-12 education to agree with: No one goes into teaching for the money. Particularly inner-city teaching.
In fact, it's a measure of their idealism that inner-city teachers persevere in jobs that often require them to spend significant chunks of their salary on supplies for their students. And that contribution pales before the cost of a master's degree from a top institution like Teachers College.
But what if the latter cost could be reduced or eliminated? Would that help attract committed, educated new teachers to the districts where they're needed the most? The Petrie Fellowship Program says "Yes." Under the auspices of The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation and Teachers College, the program provides ten incoming TC students with $50,000 each in exchange for a commitment to teach in inner-city schools for five years. Another ten students receive $10,000 each in exchange for a year's commitment. The first cohort of Petrie Fellows began classes this semester.
Teachers College President Arthur Levine calls the program "the Rhodes Scholarship for teachers." Through it, he says, Teachers College is "truly making a statement that teaching is a dignified, important profession."
The Petrie Fellows are excited as well: "The Petrie Fellowship has helped to motivate me to be a consistent, committed student," said Petrie Scholar Andrew Ravin. "Teachers College is a very prestigious university. It can be very intimidating, and very scary. But the Fellowship reminds me that I can do it."
When they apply to Teachers College, aspiring Petrie Fellows are required to submit an extra letter of recommendation that addresses their civic-mindedness and suitability for the program. The applications are reviewed by Program Manager Claudette Reid and Associate Dean for Student Services Don Martin, along with President Levine and relevant faculty members. But final decisions are made by a blue-ribbon selection panel that includes such international business leaders and philanthropists as Michael Eisner and Carolyn Kennedy Schlossberg. Reid says that in making their selections for the program's first year, the panel was energized by both the program and the prospects. "They did their homework-we were very impressed. They made the case for the students they thought would be a good fit."The program's benefits aren't merely financial.
Fellowship winners receive mentorship beyond their faculty advisors, as well as continuing professional development after leaving TC. In addition, the program arranges for Fellows to meet with top urban education professionals, such as former New York City Schools Chancellor Anthony Alvarado.
Reid salutes other programs that fast-track people without previous teacher training into the profession, but says the Petrie Fellowship program is unique in ensuring that its beneficiaries remain committed to teaching. She's confident that combining the Fellows' talents and energy with a world-class TC education will pay enormous dividends for the students and for the schools they will ultimately serve. "These are people who are committed to education," she says. "They have a drive to see that inner-city kids actually get a fair shake."previous page