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Petrie Foundation Multi-Million Dollar Gift Supports Teachers College NYC Teacher Fellowship Program

The teaching profession needed a scholarship equivalent in prestige and status to the Rhodes Scholarship. The Petrie Foundation and Teachers College have created one.
College to Award Fifty $50,000 Fellowships Over Five Years to Future NYC Teachers

The teaching profession needed a scholarship equivalent in prestige and status to the Rhodes Scholarship. The Petrie Foundation and Teachers College have created one.

With a five-year gift from the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation designed to change the substance and image of the teaching profession on a national level, 100 future New York City teachers will receive the Rhodes-like fellowships to Teachers College. Fifty will be in the amount of $50,000 to cover the full cost of tuition and living expenses while they complete a master's degree and requirements for teacher certification. The other 50, called Petrie Finalists, will receive a partial scholarship from the Foundation and an additional award from the College toward the cost of tuition. The Fellowship awards are based on excellent academic performance and financial need.

The award, officially called the Carroll and Milton Petrie New York City Teacher Fellowship Program, was established in response to the situation in New York City public schools, where hiring and retaining the most qualified teachers has become nearly impossible. For years, the Board of Education has been forced to hire too many teachers with inadequate preparation or none at all. Well-qualified teachers who do teach in New York City have the highest burnout rate and too often leave before completing their third year of teaching.

As one of the most selective fellowships in America, the Petrie Fellowship Program will provide a way for students of limited financial means-but with unlimited talent, enthusiasm and commitment-to receive an outstanding preparation for a teaching career in New York City, at no cost to them.

The College sees the program making significant inroads in improving the quality of the teacher corps in New York City. Teachers College anticipates that many former Petrie Fellows and Finalists will become school principals and even district superintendents with the influence and authority to inspire further improvements in the New York City schools. By offering support to the 50 Finalists in addition to the 50 Fellows, more high quality teachers will be able to enter the New York City Schools, who will have the same level of education and mentoring support in their careers.

"The best way to improve education in New York City's most troubled schools," Nancy Laing, the Director of the Petrie Foundation said, "is to provide well-qualified, highly motivated teachers. The Petrie Fellowship Program is a positive step toward reaching that goal. We look forward to working with Teachers College in implementing the program because of the reputation that Teachers College has in preparing so many of the city's best educators."

In a national search to find the best qualified teachers, the Petrie Foundation and Teachers College will assemble a group of 20 prominent leaders from education, business, philanthropy, government and the media to serve as "blue ribbon" panelists for the Petrie Fellowship selection process. This panel will make the final decisions on the selection of the Fellows and Finalists.

Arthur Levine, President of Teachers College, Columbia University spoke of the importance of the Petrie Fellowships in raising the image of teaching. Levine said, "Teaching is a profession which lacks the status, working conditions and salaries of law, business and medicine. The most able students in the country, who would like to enter the field, are often discouraged by family and friends from doing so for these reasons. The Petrie Fellowship will provide increased prestige, enhanced dignity, a focus on unbridled excellence, a bright national spotlight and even glitter to a profession that people have chosen to do good rather than to do well."

"Our hope is that the Fellowship," Levine continued, "will make the teaching profession more attractive-serving as a magnet to encourage a higher proportion of the best and the brightest to enter the field, reducing the objections of family and friends, discouraging excellent teachers from leaving the field, and providing an example for government, other philanthropists and universities on future fellowship design for teachers. Study after study has shown that no form of school improvement has a greater impact on student achievement than teacher quality. We believe the ultimate benefactors of the Petrie Fellowship will be our children; in fact, the most disadvantaged of our children."

Petrie Fellows will commit to teach in a New York City public schools for a minimum of five years after graduating from the College. The College will assist Fellows and Finalists in finding teaching positions in New York City once they have completed their studies. As teachers, they will participate in the College's New Teacher Academy, which provides professional development that has proven to increase teacher retention and commitment to the profession, and they will be provided with a mentor from the faculty.

One of the most important goals of the program is to uphold the profession of teaching for all teachers, current and future. In order to reach out in support of current teachers who have entered the profession and stayed there despite the difficulties that have led to shortages, the program also provides a way to celebrate some of those outstanding individuals. Once a year, one such teacher will be honored as a symbol of the profession and will be invited to present the Petrie Lecture to New York City teachers.

The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation was established when Milton Petrie died in 1994. Mr. Petrie was especially known for his generosity to total strangers, whose plights, which he read about in the newspaper, moved him to offer his support. To honor his philanthropic acts, in 1992 Mayor David Dinkins declared June 12 Milton Petrie Day in New York City. The Petrie Foundation supports education programs in New York City.

Published Friday, Aug. 22, 2003