Ahead of the Class

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 Ahead of the Class

A number of useful conclusions can be drawn from the Pathways initiative. These practical recommendations summarize main points this handbook has discussed in greater detail in the sections above.

On Building Strong Partnerships

  • Teacher education programs can increase the number of qualified teachers for urban and rural schools by drawing candidates from nontraditional pools (e.g., paraprofessionals, uncertified teachers, substitute teachers, and RPCVs). To accomplish this, they should form partnerships with urban and rural school districts.
  • Productive partnerships involve thoughtful planning. A planning team must essentially include representation from both the partner institution of higher education (e.g., an institution contact person such as someone from the office of the dean of education and the teacher education faculty) and the school district (e.g., district contact person, personnel office representatives, principal). The planning team assesses the district’s teacher supply and demand, sets recruitment goals, chooses the pool or pools from which to recruit new teachers, devises recruitment and selection strategies, adjusts the teacher education curriculum to address participant needs, and designs support services to enable participants to complete the program and meet certification requirements.
  • Partnerships with a history of collaboration and a system of open communication are more apt to succeed in solving implementation difficulties than partnerships with no previous collaborations or with poor communication.

On Effective Recruitment and Selection

  • Recruitment and selection strategies should be tailored to partner school districts. These strategies should target and select candidates who have the characteristics and dispositions the partner school districts value highly (e.g., minority background; male gender; interest in becoming teachers of science, math, special education, or bilingual education; commitment to teaching children in urban or rural settings).
  • The program’s recruitment pool should be large enough to allow some freedom to choose the most qualified candidates while still meeting enrollment targets. Consequently, information on the number and characteristics of individuals in a potential pool or pools should drive the choice of pools from which the partners will recruit.
  • The target school district should be actively involved in recruiting and selecting program participants. School district representatives should help define the population from which to recruit, participate in framing selection criteria, disseminate information about the program, recommend applicants, review applications, interview promising candidates, and contribute to final selection.
  • Key factors to consider in selecting participants from nontraditional pools include (a) background in minority cultures, (b) entering GPA, (c) performance in writing samples, (d) interview performance, and (e) years of teaching experience. All candidates should have backgrounds in minority cultures. Candidates who enter the program with higher GPAs are more likely to complete certification requirements in a timely manner than candidates with lower GPAs. Candidates with marginal GPAs should not be automatically disqualified, however; a low GPA might be balanced by strong writing samples and/or interview performances.
  • Programs that target persons from more than one applicant pool should tailor separate selection criteria to screen each type of recruit.

On Preparing Nontraditional Candidates

  • In adapting the teacher education curriculum for preparing candidates from nontraditional populations to teach in urban and rural settings, consider the extent to which your program attends to valuing diversity, learning about different cultures, building bridges between home and school, preparing participants to serve as role models, making connections between theory and practice, and improving knowledge of content.
  • To meet the needs of participants from nontraditional pools while building on their strengths, teacher education programs should closely consider the following: giving credit for experience, addressing potential barriers to student teaching (especially for paraprofessionals), and expanding course offerings.

On Supporting Participants throughout the Program

  • Well-crafted recruitment and selection strategies and a carefully designed teacher education curriculum alone do not guarantee that program participants will complete certification requirements in a timely fashion. Support services are essential. These services may include thorough orientation, consistent academic advising or monitoring, academic tutoring, preparation for certification exams, classroom supervision and feedback, mentoring, cohort-building, and family support. Programs must adjust their network of services to their participants’ real, practical needs.

On Calculating Program Costs

  • Financial incentives (e.g., scholarships that pay for tuition, fees, and books) are essential to recruiting participants from nontraditional pools and retaining them through graduation.
  • The total cost to external funding sources of preparing one teacher through the Pathways program ranges from $4,074 to $12,274 for public institutions and from $5,345 to $39,174 for private institutions. Program cost varies according to the type of student as well as the type of institution. The highest costs are associated with programs serving paraprofessionals.
  • In addition to external funding sources, Pathways programs are supported by fiscal as well as in-kind contributions from universities, school systems, and students.
  • Practices that promote the efficiency of these programs include the following: (a) carefully identifying the student population to be served and using multiple recruitment strategies, (b) using existing university infrastructure (e.g., the admissions process) when appropriate, and aligning program requirements with the institution’s existing teacher certification program when possible, (c) offering support services when benefits outweigh costs, (d) using lower-cost personnel (e.g., part-time) so long as effectiveness is not compromised, and (e) sharing personnel and equipment with other programs.

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