Drake University has formed an innovative partnership with Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) that will allow some teachers to pursue a master's degree at reduced or no cost to the teacher.
Under the terms of the new partnership, the district will fund the cost of a Drake master’s degree for newly hired teachers who sign an alternative teaching contract. Participants will complete a curriculum that Drake and DMPS tailored to meet the district's most pressing educational needs, which include emphases on urban education, cultural competency, and instruction to English Language Learners
"Drake's School of Education has a long history of developing close and rewarding partnerships with local districts and agencies," said Dean Janet McMahill. "But this is collaboration on steroids. It's an entire master's degree with new course material, new teaching methods, and a customized calendar."
The program will be taught by a combination of full-time Drake University faculty and DMPS staff members who will be hired as adjunct instructors. Ultimately the goal is to enhance the quality of instruction within the district and boost learning outcomes for K-12 students.
"The curriculum combines the strengths that Drake brings to the table, and those strengths the school district possesses," said Associate Professor of Education Jill Caton Johnson, who helped develop the program. "We appreciate that Des Moines Public Schools is willing to embrace an innovative idea like this—it's something that I believe you won’t see many places in the country."
Participants are required to work for the district for three years before beginning courses, and agree to remain employed by the district for eight years. If they leave the district before the conclusion of their eight-year tenure, they will reimburse the district for the cost of the degree.
The first cohort contains more than 50 teachers and will begin in January 2016; overall, more than 170 teachers are already signed up. Teachers who did not sign an alternative teaching contract with the school district are eligible to sign up for the program at their own expense.
"Through this partnership," McMahill said, "we are building a professional learning community based on trust, talent, and teamwork, that will have a powerful return for Iowa."