Bucknell Awarded Pennsylvania Department of Education Grant to Aid Local Teachers

June 2, 2023

by Mike Ferlazzo

Christian Melgar '23 was a Bucknell pre-service teacher at Lewisburg High School last year. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

Pennsylvania recorded its highest rate of teacher attrition ahead of the 2022-23 school year, with a new Penn State Center for Education Evaluation & Policy Analysis study finding 9,587 teachers left the profession — 7.7% of all teachers in the state. The research found that attrition is highest among teachers of color, schools with high proportions of students of color, poor school districts, and charter schools.

Bucknell University Professor Janet VanLone, education, was recently awarded a Pennsylvania Department of Education grant of more than $95,000 that will be used to address this problem. The funds will be used to


Professor Janet VanLone, education. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

conduct two three-day summer institutes for 40 teachers from the Lewisburg, Milton Area and Shikellamy school districts to train on the state's new culturally relevant sustaining education competencies and positive behavior support practices. Teachers will also learn strategies for mentoring and/or coaching novice teachers — both pre-service teachers from Bucknell and other local universities and in-service early-career teachers.

The first institute will take place Tuesday through Thursday, June 6-8, in the University's Academic East Room 114. The second on-campus institute is scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 8-10. Both institutes have maximum enrollment, and teachers will be provided a stipend for attending.

VanLone, Professor Grace Kim, education; and Heather Cantagallo, director of professional education at Bucknell, compiled the training content and are conducting related research on the outcomes of the training on teacher retention.

"This is important right now because across the state we are seeing a significant decline in new teacher certifications being issued, and early-career teachers are leaving at high rates," VanLone says. "This is leaving schools with unmanageable teacher shortages and kids without access to qualified, experienced teachers. The work that we are doing through this grant is meant to bolster the teaching profession and reduce early-career attrition."

The state's culturally relevant sustaining education competencies require teachers to be prepared in nine competencies about understanding culture, background and the identities of students to better prepare them to work with students of diverse backgrounds.

VanLone says positive behavior support training is also vitally important, particularly for new teachers.

"That involves understanding how to prevent problem behavior from occurring, helping students work on emotion regulation, and providing teachers with problem-solving skills that can help to support students who struggle with behavior," she says.

The research will make a unique contribution to the field because of the focus on novice teachers in rural schools.

"The research will go into next year and will look at what are the differences when looking at applying these [culturally relevant sustaining education] competencies in rural schools and how we may better support teachers in those settings," says VanLone, who is looking for additional grant opportunities.