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Studies of Troops to Teachers program by ODU Profs Prompt BBC Documentary

Two recent studies of the U.S. Department of Defense's Troops to Teachers (TTT) program by William Owings, professor of educational leadership at Old Dominion University, have attracted the attention of the BBC in the United Kingdom, and the British are coming to Hampton Roads in early February to see the program in action.

Owings was the lead investigator of the 2006 study "Troops to Teachers' Classroom Effectiveness: Implications for Principals," which was published in the NASSP Bulletin, a journal of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. His second study, "The Effects of Troops-to-Teachers on Student Achievement: One State's Study," was published in January 2010 in the NASSP Bulletin. Working with him on this study were Leslie Kaplan, a retired administrator with Newport News Public Schools, and two faculty members from the ODU educational foundations and leadership department, John Nunnery, who led the 2010 study, and Shana Pribesh.

Owings was interviewed by phone Jan. 12 by the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Mark Alden, who plans to visit the area sometime early next month. Alden, a producer with BBC Current Affairs who has worked on radio and television documentaries for the last 11 years, is preparing a half-hour documentary about the Troops to Teachers program that is scheduled to be aired in April on the BBC's flagship current-affairs program "Panorama" (www.bbc.co.uk/panorama), which bills itself as "the world's longest running investigative TV show."

"School discipline and pupil engagement is always a hot topic of debate here in the UK," said Alden. "Classroom disruption was recently described as 'the single biggest barrier to learning facing schoolchildren.' The U.S. Troops to Teachers program has received a fair amount of coverage in the UK in recent months as we approach a general election in the spring.

"The main opposition party - The Conservative Party - have pledged to set up a similar scheme in the UK if they are elected into government. So we at the BBC decided to examine how the U.S. scheme works, why it has been so successful and how well the model will transfer to the UK."

In anticipation of Alden's visit, Owings has been in contact with several local TTT teachers, many of whom received licensure through ODU, as possible candidates for interviews.

The state office for Virginia TTT is located on the ODU campus and supports the teacher licensure programs at all of Virginia's higher education institutions. According to Joe Wargo, director of the office, approximately 800 former members of the military are currently teaching in the state, from elementary school through high school, as a result of having gone through the TTT program. About half of those teachers are in Hampton Roads classrooms.

Neither Wargo nor Owings is aware of any countries that have adopted the TTT model.

Owings, who was quoted previously in Time magazine and The Washington Post in connection to his TTT research, said at first he thought one of his friends was playing a joke on him when he received the initial call from Alden.

"It's very rewarding to know that your research has an audience and becomes practical to people," he said, adding that all of the studies' authors deserve credit for their work.

Troops to Teachers was established in 1994 as a Department of Defense program. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is managed by the Defense Activity for non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) in Pensacola, Fla.

The primary objective of TTT is to help recruit quality teachers for schools that serve low-income families throughout the United States. TTT helps relieve the teacher shortages, especially in math, science, special education and other high-need subject areas, and assists military personnel in making a successful transition to a second career in teaching.

Quoted in an Oct. 8, 2009, Time magazine story, "From Iraq to Class: Turning Troops into Teachers," Owings said of his 2006 study: "Principals and other supervisors have reported that these teachers worked better with problem children, worked better with parents and worked better with colleagues." He also noted in the story that, according to administrators' observations, "the TTT people rated higher in exhibiting behaviors that are associated with increases in student achievement."

In his latest study, Owings and his co-authors examined data from Florida that compared student achievement in TTT classrooms with student achievement in classrooms taught by teachers with traditional training. The authors write in the journal article abstract: "Results indicated that students served by Troops teachers performed about equally well in Reading and achieved a small but statistically significant advantage in Mathematics when compared with all teachers but achieved substantially and statistically significantly higher in both Reading and Mathematics when compared with teachers matched by subject and teaching experience."

This article was posted on: January 27, 2010

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