Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Wither Alternative Teacher Certification Programs

The overreliance on alternative teacher certification programs across the San Antonio School Districts is alarming. Data released in October 2013 by the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Advancement of Teacher Education (CREATE), a center that provides Texas universities with information on teachers and schools, show that teachers who are certified through alternative programs receive preference in the hiring process over those graduating from the teacher preparation program at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). The survey was conducted within a 75 miles radius from UTSA. According to CREATE, the highest percentage of university prepared teachers hired by the districts is only 34.5 (2012-2013). These data also show that charter schools within these districts hired the lowest number of teachers graduating from UTSA.

Of course, these numbers are troubling. Alternative teacher preparation programs are largely influenced by the neoliberal agenda in education. Teach for America (TFA), for instance, has been perceived by those who bash public education as a solution for improving educational opportunities in low-income neighborhoods. Yet the reality is that TFA has contributed little in schools that serve disadvantaged children. In a recent Politico editorial, Stephanie Simon provides provocative argument showing how TFA has thrived on the expense of the public good. Catherine Michna asks an important question, i.e., how can we expect teachers with little or no experience in education to be able to close the education gap in poor schools? A city like San Antonio, TX, divided by SES and racial lines, is bound to have schools with a disproportionate achievement gap. Local school districts should be committed to closing the achievement gap by recruiting more teachers graduating from UTSA, who have learned and practiced the pedagogical skills to work with linguistic and cultural diverse children.

Here are the reasons: The teacher certification programs in the College of Education and Human Development at UTSA provide expertise in educating students who will be prepared for educational inequities in public schools. To strengthen this mission, the College of Education and Human Development has The Academy for Teacher Excellence that helps prepare pre-service teachers with educational issues associated with a growing diverse student population.

Teacher candidates who attend UTSA spend at least two years studying the theory and practice of teaching, plus another year of student teaching, before they can be certified as teachers. Through the Academy for Teaching Excellence, teacher candidates are also required to immerse themselves in after schools programs so that they get to know the communities in which they will be serving. This helps them to learn about how communities and families relate to schools, especially those communities that have been historically marginalized in education.  Alternative programs such as TFA do not engage their teacher candidates in this kind of rigor. It seems, then, that school districts would benefit by hiring more teachers coming out of UTSA who are better prepared to teach in public schools with diverse communities.  

by Bekisizwe Ndimande

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