Retention, recruitment, preparation, access, and equity: all words tied to the state of education. The words transcend districts and state lines, and these words all connect to student impact. The choices being made at the very beginning of this educational trajectory ultimately impact the students in the classroom. It could easily turn into the “chicken before the egg” conundrum, but I would argue we know what comes first: teacher preparation.
Teacher preparation varies from the type of preparation you receive, whether connected to an Institute of Higher Education (IHE) or not, to whether that IHE program was a traditional or alternative route. What this all means by way of impacting students reverts back to how well-prepared educators feel to do their job effectively upon completion of their program.
As one of 18 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows, I conducted focus groups and administered surveys on the topic of teacher preparation last fall, collecting impressions and information from practicing teachers who completed programs all across the nation. Overwhelmingly, teachers stated they would have felt better prepared, had they had more clinical experience. I seek to start conversation on how funding, under ESSA Title II- Part A, could help with this experience factor within my own state.
As of 2014, according to this Title II site, there were 131 teacher preparation programs in the state of Arizona. Of these 131, 2 were alternative, non-IHE based programs. This detail is important because under ESSA Title II-Part A, provisions could be made to allow for academies that would offer an alternative route to teacher certification. These academies would place preservice teachers and principals in high-needs schools to impact change as they gain clinical experience with these same demographics. With the cap of spending under Title II -Part A at 2% for these academies, I could see how aspects of this preparation can be embedded within traditional or alternative IHE based programs.
Teacher residency is another option presented under Title II. Residency programs would be based in schools, and have the flexibility to be connected to an IHE, allowing those seeking certification to gain the in-classroom experience which many survey respondents stated they were missing. Residency would require teacher candidates to be a part of a school-based program, where they will teach alongside an effective mentor teacher for a minimum of one school year. Arizona certification programs/IHEs could implement this type of residency in connected school sites as part of their existing curriculum, versus creating a program specific to residency. Just as residency is a crucial part of the educational trajectory in other professional fields, the same could be done with the additional funding, under ESSA, in the current teacher preparation programs.
As the data stands, there are minimal alternative, non-IHE based programs in AZ. The focus on teacher quality and maintaining high standards is important for student impact. There are many merits that can be taken from of the academy concept and the idea of a residency program. I propose that teacher preparation in the state of Arizona, should be looked at through the lens of transforming as opposed to reforming teacher preparation.
I leave you with these questions:
- In what ways can we provide high quality, diverse experiences within our already established teacher preparation programs?
- What can be learned from the “allowances” under ESSA Title II?
- What will provide future teachers with the most impact on their students, transformation or reformation?
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The full findings of the report can be found HERE.