In 1999, FSU instituted its Master of Arts in Teaching program at the FSU Hagerstown Center to address the growing statewide teacher shortage in the elementary schools. By taking students with bachelor's degrees and, in a 13-month, full-time program, FSU provided them with the courses and fieldwork to prepare them to be classroom teachers.
Now the University has launched its Master of Arts in Teaching for secondary schools, which will be based at FSU's Frostburg campus.
"We have a tremendous shortage of secondary teachers, especially in math and science," said Dr. Susan Arisman, dean of FSU's College of Education.
The new program serves both recent graduates and career changers, Arisman said.
"It's very difficult for students to get content courses, field experience and education courses in four years," she said. To become secondary teachers, candidates are required to major in their fields; education courses and field experience must fit in around those requirements. The Secondary MAT allows students to concentrate on their subject areas during undergraduate study, then complete education courses and field experience all in 15 months.
"The program also allows people to decide to become teachers at a later date," she said. It's also a boon for those who already have a bachelor's degree and want to change careers.
A unique feature of the program is its strong research component, allowing a student to develop a proposal to study a classroom technique or curriculum, perform the research and background study and evaluate the results, all in the course of the program. Providing research proving the effectiveness of curricula and teaching methods is also a provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Dr. Alice Alexander, a professor in Educational Professions, was inspired to build in the research component after watching classroom teachers become discouraged at seeing the same problems year after year and not be able to address them.
"This allows us to look for solutions to problems rather than just talking about them," Alexander said. It provides an opportunity for a candidate and a mentor-teacher to identify a problem in the school that they would like to resolve, look at a potential solution and try it out in scientific manner.
Coordinating the Secondary MAT has proved a more complex undertaking than the elementary, since the candidates will be teaching such a wide variety of subjects. With this program, the MAT students will attend methods classes in their specific areas - such as math, English or science - with the rest of the daytime undergraduate students.
That combination with current FSU classes will also save money. Because of Maryland's budget crunch, FSU is required to launch the program without hiring additional staff or any other increased cost.
The full-time program, eventually designed to handle between 20 and 22 students a year, started in June. Students will work through the fall semester, the intersession between semesters, the spring semester and finish in the June summer session. Once students successfully complete the program, they will be certified to teach secondary school in Maryland and states with a certification agreement with Maryland.
The members of the first class range in age from 22 to 50, encompassing brand-new college graduates to people looking at a second - or third - career. Eight of the 14 candidates hold bachelor's degrees in critical need areas such as science, math and Spanish. "The applicant pool was phenomenal," said Dr. Bill Childs, coordinator of the secondary program. "It's a real plus."
For more information about the program, contact FSU Graduate Services at (301) 687-7053.