Drexel Launches “Dragons Teach Middle Years” Teacher Training Program 

Philadelphia School Partnership presented a $1.2 million grant to Drexel University to launch a residency-based teacher certification program called Dragons Teach Middle Years (DTMY).
Philadelphia School Partnership presented a $1.2 million grant to Drexel University to launch a residency-based teacher certification program called Dragons Teach Middle Years (DTMY).

Supported by a $1.2 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP), Drexel University’s School of Education will create a new pipeline of dual-certified, Middle-Years teachers, trained specifically for the challenges of Philadelphia classrooms. 

Dragons Teach Middle Years is a program within the School of Education that provides an opportunity for undergraduates to become certified to teach middle school science and math, two of the city’s highest-need subject areas – while being trained specifically for the unique challenges of the urban classroom. At scale, the program will graduate 40 teachers annually, creating a new source of qualified educators in Philadelphia schools. 

“Thanks to this partnership, we have a rare opportunity to help meet the city’s desperate need for middle-school math and science teachers, launch Drexel graduates on rewarding careers, and develop an intensive teacher training program that will serve as a national model,” said Drexel University President John A. Fry. “I am profoundly grateful to the Philadelphia School Partnership for their confidence in Drexel’s School of Education.”

Dragons Teach Middle Years was created in partnership with The New Teacher Project (a national leader in practice-based teacher preparation) to directly address the decline in certified teachers, particularly in urban settings. The state’s level data clearly demonstrates a shrinking pipeline of certified math and science teachers. In 2012, nearly 12,000 students completed teacher certification programs; by 2014, this had dropped to 8,555 students.  The creation of a new “Middle Years” (grade 4-8) certification category in Pennsylvania in 2013 has made this problem particularly acute in middle school.

“Principals across the city have told us that they’re struggling to find talented middle-years teachers, particularly in math and science, and we’re pleased to help address this need,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of the Philadelphia School Partnership. “Every child in every neighborhood deserves a chance to attend a great school, and that can’t happen without great teachers. On behalf of the staff and board of the Philadelphia School Partnership, we congratulate Drexel University and The New Teacher Project on this exciting initiative.”

Students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences with high academic achievement, a natural commitment to social justice and have previous experience working with low-income communities will be considered for the program.

The first cohort of students has been enrolled in their first program-specific course, with the goal of this first cohort being to graduate 20 certified teachers in 2020, and at scale the program will graduate a cohort of 40 certified teachers per year by 2022. All graduates of the program will be certified as a middle grade teacher with dual certifications in Math and Science, Math and English, or Science and English.        

In addition to receiving dual certifications upon graduation, students will also benefit from student--teaching assignments that are significantly longer than typical programs. Pennsylvania teaching certificates typically require programs to offer only 12 weeks of student teaching, but the Dragons Teach Middle Years residency program requires students to spend nearly 30 weeks embedded in a Philadelphia classroom. Beginning in the summer prior to their senior year, students will participate in a five-week Pre-Residency program modeled after The New Teacher Project Teaching Fellows Summer Pre-Service Training.  Students who successfully complete the summer Pre-Residency will enter a 24-week intensive clinical teaching residency in a local school, which takes the place of the traditional Drexel co-op job.  The residency is designed to give students the skills they need to be successful in Philadelphia schools, with a focus on four core competencies: high academic and behavioral expectations; effective and rigorous content instruction; cultural proficiency; and a growth mindset.

The grant from Philadelphia School Partnerships will be administered over four years, covering program costs for both Drexel and The New Teacher Project up until graduation of the first student cohort.  At the conclusion of the grant period in 2020, Drexel has committed to fully fund the program and implement a transition plan to ensure it will be able to stand on its own without the consultation of The New Teacher Project. Both entities have also agreed to make all program materials and evaluation public to ensure the program can serve as a model for other innovative teacher training programs nationally.