McPherson College is taking on the challenge of teacher shortages across the state by encouraging high school students to explore teaching as a profession and offering an incentive with a new program that reaches out to the best and brightest high school students.

McPherson College’s newest academic program offers a fast track to a master’s degree in education beginning this fall. The accelerated program for students interested in obtaining a Bachelors of Elementary Education and Masters of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction can be completed in just four years.

The accelerated education program includes all of the curriculum required for licensure in K-6 Elementary Education plus added endorsements of either ESOL or Special Education and advanced degree requirements for curriculum and instruction. The prescribed course schedule will allow students to finish in four years what in a traditional program would take five or more years to complete.

“The future of education in Kansas is focal to McPherson College,” President Michael Schneider said. “Students are being bombarded with reasons why not to teach. We wanted to provide a solution that encourages youth to pursue a career in education. There are many programs already that encourage non-traditional students to teach, we wanted to put our resources toward a program that encourages students to become the next generation of teachers.”

The accelerated program, not only allows graduates to enter the work force sooner and at a higher pay level, it also comes with significant cost savings. Students who complete the prescribed program in four years can expect an average savings of at least $10,000 and could enter the profession at a four-step higher entry wage than teachers entering the profession with only a bachelor’s degree.

Details of the plan were announced to a group of 80 students from across the state who participated in a one-day workshop on campus called “EdChat.” The students participated in sessions led by teaching professionals that explored methods and latest trends in education.

“I love the idea of a day like this,” Jeff Hayes, assistant director of special education at the Central Kansas Cooperative in Education in Salina, said. “We have current teacher openings right now that we can’t fill and we need to be talking to high school students to reverse the trend of dropping enrollment in teacher programs.”

Hayes, who was a presenter at the workshop, said events like EdChat and programs like the accelerated master’s degree program should help get more students interested in teaching.

“What these students might not understand now is that teachers’ salaries are based on a schedule and having a master’s degree will put them several steps ahead of their colleagues from the start,” he said.

The accelerated program was created in part as a response to the teacher shortage in Kansas. Last year, the Kansas State Board of Education said the state’s teacher shortage needed to be more effectively addressed. This year, more than 450 teachers left the profession and more than 1,000 retired. The need for special education teachers is even more critical. This academic year nearly 575 licensure waivers were granted for positions that normally require teachers with certification in special education.

“We think a program, which allows students to graduate with an advanced degree in four years will appeal to number of students that might not have considered a career in the education field,” Dr. Shane Kirchner, associate professor and chair of the Education Department, said. “Bright, creative and qualified new teachers are crucial for the future of education in our state. We are excited to be educating the next generation of those teachers.”

Also concerning is the decreasing number of students enrolling in teacher education programs nationwide. A survey conducted by the National Education Association stated the number of students in teacher education programs is at an all-time low of 4.2 percent compared to nearly 10 percent in 2005.

Remi Beard, a senior from Washburn Rural in Topeka, is in a teacher program in high school and attended the EdChat workshop. “The accelerated program appealed to me,” she said. “I am intrigued; it seems like a new approach for students interested in teaching. I was really excited about the EdChat day at McPherson College. It was so interesting to hear from teaching professionals. I filled a notebook with ideas to take back to my class.”

To learn more about the accelerated teacher-education program, contact the McPherson College Admissions Office at admiss@mcpherson.edu or call (800) 365-7402.