LANSING — Governor Jennifer Granholm, along with officials from the University and five other colleges across the state, announced yesterday at the State Capitol the creation of a fellowship program that they hope will train Michigan’s next generation of math and science teachers. After their studies, the 240 graduates will be sent to some of the state’s highest-need secondary school districts for a three-year teaching commitment.

The program, called the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship, will send students to Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan to get a master’s degree in education focusing on a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field.

After completing their studies, fellows will be sent to teach in the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor, Detroit, and Battle Creek public school districts.

At yesterday’s press conference, Granholm said the program will help to bring talented and driven graduates to Michigan and into the field of education.

“The immediate beneficiaries are the six universities and the school districts, but also the 240 people, many of whom will be coming back to Michigan, into education,” she said. “They may be displaced engineers who want to return and get a master’s degree to bring their applied knowledge into the classroom.”

University President Mary Sue Coleman, who was also at the press conference, agreed with Granholm, adding that the dwindling interest from students in STEM subjects is a national crisis.

“We’re accepting more and more international students in computer science, engineering and math because U.S. students are not interested,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to get better teachers to interest them.”

Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, said the six universities were chosen to participate in the program after a comprehensive and rigorous evaluation process.

“Above all, we sought universities with the capacity to build the models to prepare new generations of teachers for the most diverse students in U.S. history (and) to meet the highest set of standards ever demanded by our students,” he said.

In November, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation a grant of $16.7 million, which was used to establish the fellowship. Part of the money will provide a $30,000 stipend to fellows, in addition to funding the special master’s program at each university.

Coleman emphasized the fellowship’s symbolic importance as a vote of confidence for college graduates interested in coming to and staying in Michigan.

Coleman added that the mentorship component will give participants the opportunity to participate in a program that is different from traditional teacher education.

“What’s happening with new teachers is that unless you’re extraordinarily strong, you’ll be socialized to the way people have been doing things,” she said. “The idea of the mentorship is that it will keep you engaged with these new ways for your three-year commitment and in the long run.”

Coleman continued, “We believe very strongly that this kind of approach is the way to go.”

The master’s programs will be more intense than typical education graduate programs and will include more supervised work, Deborah Ball, dean of the University’s School of Education, said in an interview yesterday.

“Having the resources that will enable us to pay for that kind of close mentoring will be a big change,” she said.

Ball also said the participation in the fellowship will benefit the School of Education because of its similarity to the Teacher Education Initiative, a project already underway at the University. The TEI, like the fellowship, is a shift to a more monitored, clinically-based teacher education like the teaching processes of medical schools.

“We’re going to become much more outcome-oriented on teachers,” Ball said. “Instead of sitting through seat time in certain courses, they’ll actually have to demonstrate that they do the key things that help kids learn.”

Both Coleman and Ball said the fellowship will provide the University with the financial means to accelerate new educational tools.

“The fellowship will allow us to expand quicker than we could have in the past because of the money that will be available to recruit the fellows,” Coleman said.

Ball added that the School of Education aims to implement the fellowship’s preparation methods in areas beyond what the fellowship covers, like elementary education.

President Barack Obama highlighted the fellowship as part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign — through which he hopes to improve STEM education nationwide — at the Science, Teaching and Mentoring awards in Washington on Wednesday.

Ball said she expects the application process for the fellowship — which will first be available to students entering graduate programs in the summer of 2011 — to be competitive, especially because of the available funding.

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