PMAC records promising results in urban teacher retention

In 2013, Cardinal Stritch University joined forces with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to design a program that would help increase urban teacher retention within MPS. What started out as Project METRO, a “hyper-accelerated” one-year teacher certification program, morphed into the two-year Project METRO Alternative Certification Program (PMAC), which places “interns” in the classrooms of hard-to-staff MPS schools so they immediately fill a teaching vacancy while simultaneously completing master’s-level coursework toward their certification.

“The attractive part of PMAC is these interns are placed as the teacher of record in their classrooms while a full-time graduate student at Stritch,” said Dr. Corey Thompson, ’07, assistant professor of urban education. “Many applicants are paraprofessionals in MPS, so getting a full teacher salary and benefits is a welcome aspect of the program.”

Candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree, demonstrate a commitment to urban education and a willingness to be placed at a high-need school, and pledge a four-year commitment to MPS. Accepted applicants can pursue certification at the high school level in mathematics, science, special education or bilingual education, or at the elementary level in special education or bilingual education, and also have the opportunity to earn their master’s degree through Stritch. Throughout the program, interns receive ongoing support from a professional educator coach and professional development at a three-day summer institute at the University.

According to Thompson, the PMAC statistics show promising trends so far, with the enrollment at capacity.

“In my dissertation, the research shows that half of teachers in urban schools nationwide will quit within the first three years,” Thompson said. “So the measurement of our success is whether our teachers are defying those odds.”

PMAC statistics since 2013 reveal a nearly 74% completion rate of the program, with nearly 100% of educators who completed the program continuing in urban education. Among those continuing in MPS, three received Teacher of the Year honors, one was invited to become a department chair, and several are now serving as coaches for the program.

“We’re proud of the high percentage of people still teaching in MPS, but a lot of that is attributable to their attitude and disposition,” Thompson said. “These individuals understand the difficulty that they are literally walking into and, despite that, they still stay on and want to do this. They have the heart for wanting to work in Milwaukee schools and that’s just not true of everybody.”