Teachers for Chicago out, fast-track certification in

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The Board of Education is discontinuing its Teachers for Chicago program and is working instead to increase the number of fast-track programs to bring more career-changers into the classroom.

On-the-job training

NEW, GEO (Global Educators Outreach)

Year started: 2000

Participants: 36 from other countries

Sponsors: CPS, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Participants take courses at DePaul University.

Certification goal: Regular after three years.

Teach for America

Year started: 2000

Participants: 38 recent college grads

Sponsors: Houston-based Teach for America, National-Louis University.

Certification goal: Alternative after one year.

CONTINUING NU-TEACH

Northwestern University Teacher Education Alternative for Chicago

Year started: 1998

Participants: About 30, mainly mid-career adults

Sponsors: CPS, Northwestern University, Golden Apple Foundation.

Certification goal: Alternative after one year; must teach for four years before applying for a standard certificate.

GATE

Golden Apple Teacher Education

Year started: 1998

Participants: 54

Sponsors: CPS, Golden Apple Foundation, Northwestern University.

Certification goal: Alternative after one year.

ON HIATUS

Urban Teachers Corps

Year started: 1992

Participants: 7 finishing this year

Sponsors: CPS, DePaul University, the Peace Corps.

Certification goal: Regular after one or two years.

DISCONTINUED

Teachers for Chicago

Year started: 1992

Participants: 95

Sponsors: CPS, Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago Council of Area Deans of Education. Initially, Golden Apple Foundation.

Certification goal: Regular after two years.

Mandy Burrell

Sources: Program officials

The board has asked education deans from Chicago area universities to submit proposals for new alternative certification programs that could begin as early as next summer. So far, it has received three and approved one, a math/science program coordinated by Northwestern University. It also has blessed the existing Golden Apple Teacher Education program.

For its part, the board will pay program participants the same salaries that regular first-year teachers get and two-thirds of the program tuition costs. It also is considering reimbursing the remaining one third on a pro-rated basis for each year the teacher works in the district beyond the initial commitment.

“Teachers for Chicago has been very successful,” says Fred Chesek, noting it has placed 900 new teachers in classrooms over the past nine years. “Now we’re asking, ‘What can we do to provide other options for career changers?’ The board’s commitment is, ‘Let’s do that, and provide additional money for making that transition, because we need them right now.'”

Chesek has moved from the position of director of Teachers for Chicago to manager of alternative certification programs in the board’s Teachers Academy for Professional Development.

Teachers for Chicago, which will conclude at the end of next school year, was a cooperative venture of the School Board, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Golden Apple Foundation and Chicago area schools of education. When it was launched in 1991, there was no alternative certification in Illinois.

In addition to teaching full time, participants took college courses that led to both a regular teaching certificate and a master’s degree. The process took two years. All the while, participants were paid at the level of a full-time basis substitute rather than a regular teacher; the board used the salary savings to pay their college tuition and to free up regular teachers at the “host” schools to serve as mentors.

To make the mentor funding work, participants were assigned to schools in groups of four, which ruled out schools with fewer than four teacher vacancies. According to a 2000 study by The Chicago Panel on School Policy, almost half of the teacher interns thought the program’s primary strength was the peer support that resulted from this set-up.

In 1997, the Legislature dramatically changed the teacher certification landscape. Largely at the behest of Golden Apple, it authorized alternative certification programs that don’t require as much formal study. In 1998, the foundation, together with Northwestern University, launched Golden Apple Teacher Education (GATE). While participants were paid regular teacher rates, they had to pay tuition on their own.

“Teachers for Chicago was not something that everyone was enthusiastically supporting anymore,” says Jackie Gallagher, spokesperson for the Chicago Teachers Union.

Sponsors regretted that it automatically screened out some good applicants and some schools that wanted interns. Centered around study for a master’s degree, the program was unattractive to people who already had advanced degrees. And the program did nothing for schools with fewer than four teacher vacancies.

The Chicago Panel study also found a significant level of intern dissatisfaction with their mentors. While almost half the interns it interviewed reported having a supportive mentor, 35 percent said their mentor provided little or no support.

However, principals who received interns were solid fans of the program, the Chicago Panel study found. One of the biggest is Sandra Lewis, principal of Harold Washington Elementary School. “It changed the whole tenor of my school,” she says. Washington currently has 22 teachers from the program: Four already are certified, seven will be at the end of this school year, and 11 will be at the end of next school year.

Chesek stresses that new programs will have to have a well-thought-out mentoring program.

Victoria Chou, dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, would like to be able to recruit mentors from the ranks of both CPS and universities. With Teachers for Chicago, she notes, it sometimes was hard to recruit teachers from the host schools.

Universities must take care in choosing mentors, says Gallagher. “I would hate to be a person with a degree in math from Teach for America and have a grad student in education mentoring me,” she says. “That’s something that has to be looked at once they get it in place.”

GATE director Dom Belmonte believes teachers would be better than university staffers. Historically, teachers have acquired their know-how in the districts where they worked, not in university classrooms, he says. GATE has recruited teachers from the city and the suburbs to serve as mentors.

The teachers union continues to express concern about the quality of preparation that any fast-track program can provide. However, the School Board counters that it is developing standards for both the programs and the participants. “We’re open to programs that are outside the box, but they have to be effective,” says Chesek. “The ultimate thing is, Are students learning in the classroom?”

The board’s new funding arrangement has made GATE a much more attractive program financially, slashing the cost to participants from $12,000 to $4,000. That, along with a new marketing campaign, prompted a 40 percent increase in inquiries about the program, Belmonte reports. But the number of applicants increased by only 6, to 85. Belmonte plans to survey the nearly 1,000 people who requested information, but did not apply, to see what factored into their decisions.

Chicago’s stepped-up support of alternative teacher certification is in line with a national trend. State governments have turned to alternative certification to help remedy teacher shortages, with New Jersey, California and Texas leading the way, according to Emily Feistritzer, president of the National Center for Education Information. In turn, there has been a boom in school district support of fast-track programs, she says. Now, she notes, the challenge is to make sure these programs adequately prepare teachers for the classroom.

But Feistritzer believes alternative certification is a solution “not only to the quantity problem, but also to the quality problem.”

How Chicago Compares

Chicago

Total number of teachers: 26,000

Provisionally certified: 3,000 (1.5%)

Pursuing alternative certification: 335

Details: Teachers seeking alternative certification first obtain a one-year provisional certificate by completing a course of study and practice teaching. Then they must complete a one-year internship, working full time as a teacher, and meet the performance standards of their alternative certification program.

New York City

Total number of teachers: 80,000

Provisionally certified: 12,000 (15%)

Pursuing alternative certification: 620

Details: The New York City Teaching Fellows, launched this year, requires 200 hours of pre- service training, teaching with mentors and completion of master’s degree course work. Teach for America, a two-year program that results in a standard certificate after the first year and an optional master’s degree in education after the second year, has 220 corps members in the district. In 2001, 1,500 teachers will join the Fellows program, about 15 percent of an estimated 10,000 positions the district fills annually.

Los Angeles

Total number of teachers: 36,500

Provisionally certified: 9,726 (27%)

Pursuing alternative certification: 0

Details: The district has a 16-year-old internship program that involves mentoring and cohort support, but it results in a standard teaching certificate. This year, 1,000 are enrolled.

Houston

Total number of teachers: 13,000

Emergency certified: 1,100 (8.5%)

Pursuing alternative certification: 424

Details: The one-year alternative program combines teaching, district training and university course work to meet state and district standards for certification at year’s end.

Note: Provisionally certified teachers must be enrolled in university courses leading to teaching certificates.

Compiled by Mandy Burrell