Why the Dell Foundation Loves the Urban Teacher Center

The Baltimore-based Urban Teacher Center employs two strategies that are super-hot with ed funders right now: training teachers through mentoring and data-based assessment of teacher performance. 

Both strategies appeal to the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which awarded $1 million to UTC earlier this year. The foundation also gave substantial support to UTC in 2012 and 2011. 

Improving high-needs urban schools is one of the top priorities of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and it has a longstanding interest in efforts to boost teacher quality. But the UTC is an especially good fit because Dell is especially keen on improving and applying education data, and the UTC program is exceptionally data-driven.

Teacher candidates at UTC take graduate-level courses not as the primary part of their preparation, but as support for a clinical approach emphasizing on-the-job mentoring in one of its partner schools. The new teachers earn certification only if their students show the expected level of academic growth, and the use of diagnostic assessments to drive instruction is a major part of the training. They also earn dual master's degrees from Lesley University in special education and either mathematics or literacy education.

The UTC currently works with 75 district and public charter schools in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. It plans to use the new grant to expand in its current districts and also to move into other cities. It will also support continued development of the program's "data literacy" strand.

“Our goal is to tip student performance in low-performing schools and districts by preparing a cadre of truly excellent teachers," said Jennifer Green, UTC’s Co-Founder and Co-Director, "At the same time, we want to be a model for teacher education nationally. This new grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is both a vote of confidence in our work this far, and critical support as we look ahead at how to bring this model to scale and maximize our impact in our first two cities.”

UTC's other major funders have included the New Schools Venture Fund, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Abell Foundation.