Region One, UTRGV collaborate for new master’s of education degree

Members of the first cohort group of the Master of Education in Teacher Leadership Degree, along with Project RISE, Region One and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley partners. (Courtesy photo)

EDINBURG — Region One Education Services and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley formalized a partnership to offer a new master’s of education degree in teacher leadership.

The program will be a part of the Region One Incentive Strategies for Educators, known as RISE, which aims to create a pipeline of highly effective K-12 educators to increase student achievement.

The program was designed to meet the RISE guidelines and has an overall goal of preparing teachers as instructional leaders, coaches and mentors, according to a news release.

“The program was designed specifically by UTRGV for the Project RISE program with extensive participation of the Project RISE staff,” the release stated. “The development of the degree plan, delivery of the course work, and opportunities for job-embedded internships has already been approved.”

The program will kick off in the Spring of 2019 with a cohort of 30 teachers that have been selected from small and rural school districts within the region. Tuition and fees for these teachers will be covered by Project RISE, and UTRGV agreed to wave all application and graduation fees for the selected teachers.

“This is a total investment by both Project RISE and UTRGV of ($550,000),” the release states.

The goal is to award 90 master’s degrees to selected teachers, who must be willing to commit to staying in their campus for three years after completing the program. This is an effort to combat the low retention rates of teachers and school leaders in rural school districts.

The initiative prioritized 31 campuses among 16 area school districts and charter schools. Candidates were required to have earned a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average, provide transcripts, submit a goals statement, submit a resume of educational experience, as well as proof that they’ve held a teaching certificate for at least three years.

“Data indicated that at the rural school districts served by Project RISE, the teacher retention rate was low, the average tenure for a school principal (was) three years, as was the number of teachers with master’s degrees,” the release stated.

The project was developed due to these issues, Project RISE Director Socorro Espinoza said in the release. The project requires a mentor teacher with a master’s degree to help lead new initiatives in their campus, but the problem was that there weren’t enough teachers with tenure or degree qualifications in these campuses to implement the program.

The mentor teacher role was born out of the desire to prepare teachers to become more active in the decision-making process of their campus in order to tackle low academic achievement, graduation rates and college enrollment, among other ever-changing educational issues.

“We recognized the need to empower, prepare, and develop teachers’ competencies to lead and support the school change required to meet the current educational challenges,” Espinoza said in the release.