CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has created a new online master's degree program for classroom teachers designed to help them meet their professional development needs while at the same time partnering them with businesses and organizations that want to boost K-12 education.

This new "Mentored Master's" program will begin this fall through OSU's School of Education and the university's Extended Campus.

"Within three years of entering the teaching profession, 20 percent of classroom teachers drop out, and within five years, that number jumps to 50 percent," said Sam Stern, dean of education at OSU. "There is a serious issue - in Oregon and nationally - of helping teachers early in their careers when they need the most help.

"By providing them with guidance and valuable partners, we can help teachers be self-directed learners, much the same as they hope to do with their students," Stern added.

Working classroom teachers don't have the luxury of traveling to a campus for continuing education or professional development, Stern said, because they are too busy trying to handle the day-to-day demands of teaching. And they may be reluctant to seek help from other teachers or administrators within their school or district for fear of appearing unready for the classroom.

"There is really a growing need for mentoring and networking," Stern said. "The old model of traveling to campus every summer for three years to get a master's doesn't work. It's an old-school way of thinking."

Stern said in addition to the professional guidance teachers get through the School of Education, they are able to tailor their curriculum to fit their personal development. And OSU educators will help them create a network of support from organizational partners who share a commitment to help Oregon teachers.

Already, the program has the support of many organizations and businesses, Stern said.

"The High Desert Museum, for example, has full-time educators and numerous volunteers who want to help promote science education," Stern said. "They have a wonderful "Birds of Prey" kit that could become a great teaching tool for a young educator - and they have the willingness to work with teachers on making that resource work in the classroom.

"That's what the Mentored Master's program is all about," he added, "matching teachers with needs to partners with the resources to help."

The program is a full-time master's degree program that offers a combination of established courses with an opportunity for participants to design part of their curriculum. While some of the potential partners may already be part of the OSU program, the greatest value will come from teachers who develop their own partnerships with the university's support, Stern said.

"If you are a teacher in Paisley, you may want to tailor your curriculum and classroom projects to ranching," Stern said, "whereas in Beaverton, you may want to connect with the high tech industry. But you'll get to the same place at the end - professional development that is relevant and immediately applicable to the classroom."

More information on the Mentored Master's program is available online at:

Businesses and organizations that would like to help are encouraged to call Juanita Lamley at 541-737-5956. Interested students should contact OSU Extended Campus at 1-800-667-1465, or e-mail:

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Sam Stern, 541-737-6392