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KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee program is helping local schoolteachers be better prepared to teach in inner city schools.

The third annual Urban Impact Summer Institute held this week at UT featured some of the nation’s most successful urban educators discussing ways to improve students’ educational achievements.

Dr. Cheryl Kershaw, institute coordinator, said the program focused on schools in which 90 percent of students are minorities or in families with incomes below the poverty level, but 90 percent of students make average or above average grades.

Keynote speakers included educators and administrators who had sparked educational improvements at urban schools in Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Florida, Kershaw said.

For example, Angelo Kidd, principal at Guildford County Northeast High School, N.C., helped push algebra I students proficiency from 42 percent in 2001 to 76.2 percent in 2003; students proficient in algebra II rose from 61 percent to 92 percent and physics rose from 56.5 percent to 78.5 percent.

The institute was funded three years ago by a $3.5 million partnership grant between UT, Knox County Schools, UT-Chattanooga, Hamilton County Schools, and the Tennessee Department of Education.

Kershaw said the Urban Impact program in its first two years has focused on inducting teachers into urban schools and establishing mentor programs at 23 Knox County schools.

The program also has spread to 19 schools in Hamilton County; 50 Memphis City Schools; 25 Nashville area schools; and six schools in Upper East Tennessee.

This year’s session was designed primarily for teachers in the two-year, 12-hour Urban Specialist certificate course at UT, Kershaw said.

“In the first two years of the grant, the Urban Impact Institute developed a mentoring program for urban schools,” Kershaw said. “Although this program was beginning to indicate an improvement in the induction of novice teachers, we realized the need to have a smaller cadre of talented urban teacher with a common framework of theory and research to serve in leadership roles in mentoring beginning teachers.

“The Urban Specialist program was developed to address this need.”

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