College of Education launches Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation

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Lipscomb University’s College of Education, noted as one of the best in the state at preparing teachers based on the results of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Teacher Preparation Program Report Card, announces its new Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation that will focus on improving teacher performance and student outcomes throughout Tennessee with a particular emphasis on teacher and leader development in turn-around schools and rural school systems.

“We have found through our research and work with local school systems that one of the best ways to improve teaching and learning in the classroom is to provide educators with specific professional development based on their individual needs. When practicing educators are continually supported through tailored enhancement programs and armed with innovative teaching techniques, students have a greater opportunity to be successful,” said Candice McQueen, dean of the College of Education. “We are excited that this new partnership embodied in the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation will allow us to expand those opportunities for teachers and students across the state, especially in areas that need it the most.”

The institute, in partnership with the Ayers Foundation, will serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in training teacher-leaders and school leaders who will positively impact student outcomes; for improving teacher practice through individualized professional development; and for developing innovative educational ideas. The Ayers Institute will draw on knowledge gained by the College of Education in a nationally recognized individualized professional development program developed for Cameron Middle School in Nashville and other strategies developed for a variety of schools through Race to the Top funding.

The College of Education launched the Ayers Institute with a $1 million gift from James and Janet Ayers through the Ayers Foundation.

“We are demanding more and more from our teachers in Tennessee," said Janet Ayers, president of the Ayers Foundation. "This institute will be a great resource for our schools, particularly those with smaller professional development budgets, and will help develop innovative practices to sustain education reform in our state."

McQueen said the primary goals of the Ayers Institute are to equip teachers with tools to improve classroom performance, to cultivate a statewide corps of principals and instructional teacher-leaders who promote a culture of effective teacher mentorship in the schools they serve, and to contribute expertise and proven change models to the dialogue on education reform.

“The Ayers have a passion for the practical and how change can be made at the ground level. They also have a passion for supporting ongoing teacher development. Helping students have a top-notch education is very important to them, and they have made great contributions across the state of Tennessee to help provide resources to improve schools,” said McQueen. “This institute will focus on creating a new culture in Tennessee around teaching, learning and leadership. There is no competitive advantage to being average.”

The Ayers Institute will initially provide a variety of programming and resources for teachers including:

  • Common core standards implementation. The institute will help reinforce priorities of the state by providing professional development on common core standards that help move teachers from understanding of general pedagogy to content pedagogy.  Specifically, the institute will create best teaching practice resources, including video modules, around the content area standards.
  • Teacher development and leadership programming. The institute will help extend the reach of the best teachers through a teacher development program that helps move good teachers to great teachers, provide unique leadership programming for instructional leaders and mentoring programming for aspiring instructional coaches and mentors, create professional development modules for instructional leadership teams and conduct best practice events and networking.

The initial gift will provide funding for teacher training programs to be offered beginning this fall.

Established in 1999 by Jim Ayers of Parsons, Tenn., the Ayers Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people of Tennessee by positively affecting the fields of education, conservation and social welfare. The Ayers Foundation provides grant and scholarship money to organizations throughout Tennessee. The Ayers Foundation Scholars Program began with the vision of making higher education more accessible to young people in West Tennessee’s Decatur and Henderson counties. The Scholars Program was created to financially assist small-community students continue their education, through its own scholarships and with support in obtaining other sources of scholarship monies. The Ayers Foundation’s goal was to see at least 75% of the high school graduates continue their education post high school. This goal has been exceeded each year of the program’s existence. Since its inception, the Ayers Foundation has awarded more than 2,000 scholarships. For more information visit

For more information about the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation, call 615.966.5708, visit or

About Lipscomb University’s College of Education

Lipscomb University’s College of Education (COE) is a known leader and innovator in education in the state of Tennessee. The college was cited as one of the best university teacher preparation program in the state in the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s 2011 Tennessee Teacher Preparation Program Report Card when comparing the school’s graduates with veteran teachers.

The COE is the professional development provider in the first public-school-to-charter-school transformation in Tennessee. Lipscomb is in its second year of the innovative transformation partnership with Nashville’s under-performing Cameron Middle School as it transitions to a charter school. The partnership is creating a nationally recognized body of research on embedded professional development and instructional coaching for P-12 schools and is drawing strong regional and national interest.

The COE in partnership with the math and science departments in the College of Arts and Sciences has received more than $2.5 million of competitive grant monies to strengthen P-12 math and science instruction for local inservice teachers. These funds include awards of four recent Race to the Top grants promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and conducting professional development for teachers in Davidson, Cheatham, Williamson, Sumner and Robertson counties in Tennessee..

Lipscomb University was also selected as the local education partner for Nashville’s first Teach For America teaching corps, which launched in fall 2009. It serves as a host institute for licensure and master’s programming. The COE recently partnered with Metro Nashville Public Schools to train more than 130 teachers in best practices for educating English-language learners after competing with other universities for the opportunity. In addition, the COE is partnering with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce to coordinate its “Education 2020 Speaker Series” with the college’s acclaimed “Teaching, Learning and Leading Forum.” Since August 2011, more than 450 people have attended three co-hosted events.

The COE offers undergraduate and graduate programs that enable candidates to teach in 24 different subject areas with students from kindergarten to high school. More than 500 students are currently enrolled in graduate education programs at Lipscomb and at three off-campus sites. The college’s programs are fully accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Tennessee State Board of Education.