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Austin Peay State University’s Eriksson College of Education awarded $600K grant

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – The Austin Peay State University (APSU) Eriksson College of Education was awarded a $600,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Education earlier this month  – the largest grant in that college’s history – to develop an innovative, job-embedded program for aspiring assistant principals.

Austin Peay State University Claxton Building. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University Claxton Building. (APSU)

The new year-long program, which will be tuition-free for all participants, will begin this May with a cohort of up to 100 teachers from East Tennessee and West Tennessee.

Individuals who successfully complete Austin Peay State University’s Aspiring Assistant Principal Program will earn a Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed.) degree with a concentration in Educational Leadership Studies.

“It’s a job embedded program, so the teachers will take on the role of an assistant principal for at least part of the day and receive on-the-job training,” Dr. Sherri Prosser, APSU assistant professor of education, said.

“They’ll be assigned to a school in their district where they’ll have a principal mentor. They’ll have an Austin Peay State University faculty mentor in charge of their coursework. But instead of taking an online class and reading and writing a paper, their assignments will be job embedded,” stated Dr. Prosser.

Participants will meet with APSU faculty eight times throughout a semester using video conferencing technology, such as Zoom. During these interactive learning sessions, they will receive one-on-one coaching on different administrative strategies. Throughout the year, participants also will complete five assignments that are directly applicable to their jobs as assistant principals, such as implementing state mandates within their given school.

“In a school, a state initiative has to be dealt with, and we have to build it into our action plans as administrators,” Dr. Laura Barnett, APSU professor of education and retired Rossview Middle School principal, said. “It makes a lot more sense to have them do the real work than to do the pretend work.”

The grant is part of the Tennessee Department of Education’s “Best for All” strategic plan, which was unveiled in November by Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

“This strategic plan prioritizes the three key areas of providing quality academic programs, serving the whole child, and developing and supporting our teachers and leaders,” Schwinn said. “The work we do for our children matters. They need us and deserve our best.”

Austin Peay State University’s program will help provide the “best” for the state’s students, particularly in rural regions of East and West Tennessee where the path to an assistant principalship can be daunting to talented, hard-working teachers.

“I love that there is an access here for people across the state who perhaps don’t live near a college, they don’t have the money and maybe they have three young kids,” Barnett said. “I think it just levels the playing field for people to have access who have the skills and gifts and would be great administrators but didn’t know how they’d ever get there.”

The state awarded three $300,000 grants, with Austin Peay State University receiving two of those to serve residents in East and West Tennessee. Tennessee State University received the third grant to serve residents in Middle Tennessee.

“This program gets at the heart of what we are about in the Eriksson College of Education: access to high quality, innovative programs,” Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of the APSU Eriksson College of Education, said. “This grant award represents a reconceptualization of how we think about and deliver our leadership preparation program at Austin Peay State University, and we are excited to get to work.

This is also another instance of our College working with state partners to improve what we are all here to do — produce excellent teachers and leaders. The Tennessee Department of Education is doing many things right. And, this program is proof of their willingness to help colleges of education solve persistent problems in education.”


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