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KNOXVILLE — Knox County Schools and the University of Tennessee are participating in a $6 million grant to find new math and science teachers and help urban schools hire and keep them.

The U.S. Department of Education grant will fund two programs to attract highly qualified beginning teachers and support their careers in urban Knox schools, said UT President J. Wade Gilley. The grants are a partnership between UT and the Knox County School System.

“We welcome this opportunity to improve our recruitment and retention of beginning teachers, especially in our urban schools,” said Dr. Charles Lindsey, superintendent of Knox County Schools. “These programs continue the long history of fruitful partnerships between Knox County Schools and the UT College of Education.”

One program called TRI-IT! will recruit elementary teachers in critical-need subject areas like math, the sciences and reading. It also will seek to increase the number of minority teachers in Tennessee classrooms, said Dr. Glennon Rowell, UT education dean. The grant is renewable for three years to a total of $645,000.

The second program, Urban Impact, will develop a UT center to prepare teachers for urban schools, recruit teachers to the center, and train veterans to mentor beginners in urban settings. The grant can be renewed over five years for a total of almost $5.7 million and is one of only 25 awarded nationally.

“These programs have tremendous potential for improving the quality of teaching and learning in our urban school settings,” Rowell said.

Studies show that beginning teachers have not been prepared for the realities they have to deal with daily in urban schools, said Dr. Lynn Cagle, UT’s director of teacher education and an author of the grant.

“The national data are pretty firm. From 25 to 30 percent of beginning teachers hired into urban classrooms leave the schools and the profession within three years,” Cagle said. “That’s a tremendous drain, both financially and in the talent pool.”

Cagle said teachers have to understand urban communities before they can be successful in urban classrooms.

“It’s all about context. It’s as much about the community as it is about the school,” he said.

Dr. Cheryl Kershaw will direct the urban impact grant, and Dr. Kathy Puckett, will direct the recruitment grant, Cagle said. Both are in the College of Education.

Betty Sue Sparks, director of human resources, and Sarah Simpson, assistant superintendent, will coordinate the participation of Knox County Schools.

UT-Chattanooga also is participating in a similar partnership grant with the Hamilton County School System.