Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ed Schools looking at the Abyss

Not so shocking revelation from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on our college’s of education. To me it is amazing that this issue has not outraged more parents and students. (Note: there are always exceptions and there are many schools working hard to improve quality and all people who generalize are jerks). We do not have a lot of exceptional ed schools in the US and we cannot have a world class teaching work force if we aren’t more selective of who gets in the classroom.

The article states that “because universities often rely on education schools as "cash cows," low admissions standards are too often allowed because they help boost enrollments and revenues, he found. Some schools accept 100 percent of their applicants.”

It is a fairly balanced article and does point out that Ed Schools have not defined what it takes to be a great teacher and cant really improve until that is completed. And to be fair, I guess they have only had 100 or so years to figure that out.

If the universities want to compete with alternative certification programs, they have to have the best possible teacher going into the classroom and currently that is just not the case. Finding out what works, which courses provide the best support to students and to teachers will ultimately increase demand for college of ed students, allowing them to increase selectivity and build quality.

Until then, more studies keep showing that alt cert teachers do just as well as teachers coming through standard routes- here and here. So if the value is not there, why would you pay that much and take that much time to go through a standard route if you are no better prepared then an alt route?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Alternative Teacher Certification and Mentoring

I received a great comment from tweenteacher on my recent post on alternative certification. She makes a very strong point about the quality of the courses at her ed school and the fact that her on the job training is what really helped her succeed. This year during legislative committee hearings, I heard also heard that some of the courses teachers are forced to take have no value.

Another great point she makes is the need for strong mentoring. Her comments came on the same day that I received preliminary data from the ABCTE Alumni Survey conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. It is not a bad story as 83.1% of our first year teachers received mentoring with an average of 48 minutes per week. Not horrible, but it still leaves 16.9% without a mentor and the some of the comments show that current mentoring is not done to any real standard.

From one of our ABCTE Teachers: "The mentoring that is required by the state is NOT formally set up in my current district. I have gone as far as the superintendent to verify policy and procedure, only to find there really isn't one. However, the State insists there is a formal program set up in EVERY district as a matter of law."

This disconnect is all too real. In the twisted world of education debates, some states tell us they don’t want to have alternative certification programs because they know districts are not doing mentoring. But if someone else asks, the state will point to the law and say that everyone is being mentored.

So instead of holding districts accountable for mentoring requirements so that all teachers benefit, the problem is ignored. And that forces states to keep out programs that could help with their teacher shortages.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Missouri Legislative Session

The Missouri Legislative session ended last Friday. It was not a great session. Only 147 bills passed out of 1,954 filed. That means they only passed 7.5% of the bills that were filed and the ABCTE bill was one of them. Pretty amazing and our thanks goes out to the Missouri Chamber, some outstanding legislators plus Kent Gaines and Nikki Strong who helped us get this done.

Already 62 Missourians have enrolled in our program – that is a huge number for the first month and definitely shows that there is significant demand for a true alternative teacher certification program in the state.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Real Alternative Certification

There is a great report on alternative teacher certification from the Center for American Progress. They get many things right in this article and are pushing lawmakers/decision-makres to think outside the university in order to get the numbers of teachers we need in this country.
They state that the critical element in solving the shortage is measuring competencies rather than credentials to determine who gets into the classroom as long as it is followed by strong support once people are in the classroom. They also outline the increasing evidence that alternative certification is delivering teachers that are just as good as teachers from other routes.
The groups that focus on competencies will be those that survive in the teacher preparation and certification arena. This is true because it helps reduce costs, improve efficiencies and attract generation x, y and millenials. Forcing those groups into credentials based on hours logged in course work will never be effective in solving the teaching shortage.

The full report is here:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Best Food in our state Capitals

OK – so it has nothing to do with education but after going to 28 different state capitals in the last 2 ½ years, I felt obligated to highlight the restaurant I enjoyed the most in each location. So if you are anywhere near Oklahoma City, you have to go to Leo’s BBQ and definitely save room for the vanilla cake that comes with your meal – it just melts in your mouth. Market Place Grill flies the crab legs into Salt Lake City and they are amazing. I love Greek Pizza and Arris’ has the best while you are in Jeff City. You have not been to Annpolis unless you have had steamers and crabs at Riverside out on the deck - too much fun. Best Red Beans and Rice is at Hal and Mal’s in Jackson. Six Feet Under is just plain fun in Atlanta and has that great down home cooking going. While at the Blue Agave in Phoenix, you have to get the guacamole made at the table. Hounddogs in Columbus has the best chili dogs by far and Union Oyster House has the best clam chowder.

They are sort of ranked in order and I know I will be adding to this list this year. I must admit that I enjoy visiting our state capitals and seeing the great history in each and tasting the food that is unique to that particular part of the country.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Downward Spiral

Joanne Jacobs has an excellent post on the academic issues with college students and college graduates. I wholeheartedly agree with many of the viewpoints listed and it is well worth your time to read through the article. At ABCTE we continue to see this problem first hand.

Last year we received a grant for our Teach& Inspire scholarship program which is designed to recruit teachers locally for high needs school districts in high needs subject areas. For this first cohort, we received over 400 applications for 300 slots. Unfortunately we were only able to fill 195 of those 300 slots because we could not find enough qualified people in those 400 applicants.
What we saw was incredibly poor writing and communications skills of people who had a earned college degree. How do you earn a college degree and not know how to write at even the most basic level? Our scholarship review team was stunned at the lack of knowledge in many of these college graduates.

My ultimate fear is that the people we rejected will apply for other “alternative certification” programs that allow you to start teaching and then take course work at night. Since the selectivity of these programs is non-existent with the exception of course work and since they have already proven that they can pass that without any real academic skills, we can assume that they will pass and continue to teach.

And the downward spiral continues……….

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

MO does equal momentum

First Missouri – now Utah. When people can honestly look at what is best for students and not look at the politics, things can actually get done in education. In 2004, Utah accepted ABCTE’s math certification as a pilot program. Friday, after seeing the quality of the teachers who complete our program and an exhaustive look at our exams, the Utah State Department of Education recommended that the Utah State School Board accept all the ABCTE certifications. And the School Board did just that.

This is outstanding. Utah is experiencing extreme shortages in all areas and this will allow us to help them recruit, prepare and certify more teachers for their classrooms.

The great part is that I didn’t have to do much except give them access to everything. They had some skeptics in the group that reviewed the program and the exams. But when they saw how we had translated outstanding standards into a very rigorous exam, they were ready to take our teachers.

We can really only take one more state this year due to the new work we have in Missouri and Utah to recruit teachers into the program.

But it is time to start working on the states for next year…….any thoughts?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thank you Governor Blunt!

I first went to Missouri two and a half years ago and knew nothing about the legislative process. I learned the hard way. We didn’t even get our bill out of committee that year. But last Thursday I was standing next to Governor Matt Blunt as he signed the very first bill he approved this legislative session – the bill to allow ABCTE. A very hard fought victory to help school districts with their teacher shortages. Once the politics is done, the real work takes over.

Due to the press coverage the Governor received in signing the bill, over 400 Missourians have asked for more information about our alternative certification program and we have now had 11 enrollments in the first week from Missouri. Our enrollments include 4 biology candidates, 1 physics candidate, 1 general science, 1 math and the rest in English. Last year, Missouri ed schools graduated 5 potential physics teachers for the entire state. We just increased that by 20%. Not bad for a days work.

I got to meet one of our new potential Missouri teachers. She wanted to teach but did not have the money to pay to take the large amount of course work required by a so-called alternative teacher certification program. She also couldn’t sacrifice the time away from her family.

From the St. Louis Today article about the bill signing: “Heather Meert of Imperial holds a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and credit toward her PhD. She loves working as a substitute teacher for the Fox School District, but it would take a couple of years and thousands of dollars to actually get certified to teach. "I have all this education, and it didn't make sense for me to go back to school," she said.”

Too many people like Heather don’t get into teaching because of the cost and time required for so much course work. The immediate interest in our program in Missouri demonstrates that a streamlined, yet rigorous, alternative certification can attract more great talent into teaching. And the principals who hired out teachers are pretty happy that talent is there.