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Westfield State inks teacher preparation agreement

June 15, 2015
Reach to Teach Announcement

Westfield State University signed a new partnership with Springfield Public Schools (SPS) that helps pave the way for students to enroll in education preparation programs at the university.

Reach to Teach is designed to attract middle and high school students of color to the teaching profession and in particular, to the high need areas of teacher training in math, science, and special education. Research has shown that when students have teachers who come from the same racial and cultural background they do, they perform better academically, have higher self-esteem, stay in school longer, and graduate at higher rates.

Reach to Teach is a “Grow Your Own” initiative that will provide up to 20 eligible students from SPS with automatic admission to Westfield State, technical support on the application process, available scholarship funding during junior and senior years, and most importantly, a guaranteed job with mentorship for one year post-graduation in the SPS system.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education James A. Peyser pledged to make “higher education more affordable and responsive to the needs of our diverse regions.” Westfield State University is responding to the state agenda by creating a solution that leverages institutional strengths like teacher preparation to address a critical local need. Education is historically one of Westfield State’s top 3 majors.

Local SPS enrollment numbers bear out the need for more teachers of color:  88% of Springfield Public School students are non-white, while only approximately 11% of SPS faculty and staff are non-white per 2013-2014 Enrollment Data published by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Similarly, at Westfield State, only 11% of the Fall 2014-Spring 2015 undergraduate, post-baccalaureate certificate, and graduate education licensure candidates combined are non-white.

Reach to Teach is a major initiative to address the disparity. 

“One hundred seventy-five years ago, Westfield State was founded to answer the call to provide qualified teachers for Massachusetts’ rapidly developing public education system. Today, we are proud to continue that mission in partnership with Springfield Public Schools by creating a solution that provides teacher training grounded in the liberal arts and guaranteed jobs and hopefully, a career, for students right here in our community,” said Elizabeth Preston, president, Westfield State University.

Currently, 655 students, or approximately 12% of Westfield State’s total undergraduate day, continuing education, and graduate student population, are from Springfield.

Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick said the program represents a significant opportunity for SPS seniors as well as the district.

"I am just thrilled about this partnership,” Warwick said. “Westfield State is forward thinking in their approach to the field of education and with their commitment to the youth of today, who represent the future. This is a bold, meaningful partnership that I am confident will net great results for graduating seniors and our district.”

 The Westfield State Foundation will provide initial scholarship funding of $2,500 for at least two students in their junior or senior years of university, but the goal of the foundation is to provide funding for all students. Eligible incoming high school students will qualify for regular financial aid.

“The Westfield State Foundation is pleased to support the Reach to Teach Initiative between Westfield State University and the Springfield Public Schools.  To help defray the cost of student tuition, it will be our goal to provide a scholarship for each student during their Junior or Senior year while attending Westfield State,” said Michael R. Knapik, Executive Director of the Westfield State Foundation.

 Reach to Teach will begin enrolling students in fall 2015.

Reach to Teach is the latest partnership announcement by the university. Westfield State recently announced implementation of a $30,000 capped degree program with both Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College. Both announcements underscore the university's commitment to creating solutions for local educational issues that in turn, promote workforce development.


 About Westfield State University

Founded in 1838 by Horace Mann, Westfield State is an education leader committed to providing every generation of students with a learning experience built on its founding principle as the first public co-educational college in America to offer an education without barrier to race, gender or economic status. This spirit of innovative thinking and social responsibility is forged in a curriculum of liberal arts and professional studies that creates a vital community of engaged learners who become confident, capable individuals prepared for leadership and service to society.  For more information on Westfield State University, visit us at, follow us on Twitter at, or on Facebook at

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