Administrators STRENGTHEN TEACHER QUALITY
Innovations in Education: Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification
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New York City Teaching Fellows, New York

Certification/Degree Elementary plus
master's degree
Secondary plus
master's degree
Special Education
Bilingual Education
Partners NYC DOE
The New Teacher Project
Area universities
Program Initiated 2000
Total Program Graduates 5,748
Number who
have started
teaching follow-
ing preservice
program
2004 Candidate Cohort 2,000
Candidate Demographics 66% Female
34% Male
58% White
19% Afr. Am.
13% Hispanic
5% Asian Am.
5% Other
Program Duration 2-3 years
Cost per Candidate/Who Pays $12,000 licensure plus master's
District pays $8,000
Candidate pays $4,000

In 1999-2000, 15 percent of New York City's public school teachers and 60 percent of all new hires lacked teacher certification. The New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program was created in 2000 to recruit, select, and train talented professionals from outside the field of education to teach in City schools that were struggling to find highly qualified teachers.

After investigating alternative route models in other states, the New York City Department of Education decided to partner with The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit organization that works with local education organizations to increase the number and maximize the effectiveness of public school teachers. The New Teacher Project runs the daily operations of the Teaching Fellows program, and the NYC Department of Education staff-director and four program managers-are responsible for policy direction and working with the schools and universities.

The Teaching Fellows program is grounded in two core assumptions: First, there is a substantial pool of talented individuals who have chosen other career options but who are capable of and interested in becoming excellent teachers. This pool can be tapped by offering a clear, expedited, and structured path into the teaching profession. Second, the alternative route to certification can and will meet high standards for teacher preparation and certification. It provides a distinct and innovative path for candidates to achieve the same high standards as are expected of those who go through traditional teacher education programs.

The program begins in the summer, with seven to nine weeks of preservice training for fellows. During this period, they participate in a combination of university-based course work and student teaching. They are then hired by the NYC Department of Education to serve as teacher of record at schools needing their content expertise. In addition to receiving district-funded mentoring during the first year, fellows take classes and receive additional support from one of the program's partner universities, of which there are currently 11. Classes and support are tailored to fellows' needs and schedule, and fellows earn a master's degree in the process.

Recruitment and Selection

Word-of-mouth has been the most effective means of recruitment, but one of the program's most distinctive recruitment efforts has taken place in the City's subways. Dissatisfied professionals riding to unfulfilling jobs see ads proclaiming that "your most important clients will carry backpacks, not briefcases" and "no one ever goes back 10 years later to thank a middle manager." In their personal statements about why they seek a career change, many program applicants say something about not feeling they are making a difference in "corporate America." The program also uses the Internet to market itself, but most applicants are local. New York has decreased its use of print media (e.g., newspaper ads) because it determined that this approach was not cost effective.

The program's minimum selection requirements align with the state's requirements and with entrance requirements for partner universities, in which fellows will need to enroll as part of the program. Prospective fellows must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum overall GPA of 3.00, be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident with a green card, and speak English fluently. Applicants may not have completed an undergraduate- or graduate-level teacher education program or hold a current or expired New York State teaching certificate. The GPA requirement is not written in stone. Applicants with a lower GPA can be accepted into the program under certain circumstances; the deciding factor is that applicants have to be acceptable to the partner university at which they will take classes.

The program also works closely with the NYC Department of Education to identify areas of need, which change over time. The program sets quotas and matches candidates to the needs.

The entire application process is coordinated online, and applicants are notified within three weeks whether they can continue to the next stage of the selection process, a four hour multistage "interview." At this stage, applicants must teach a five-minute sample lesson, produce a prompt-driven writing sample (e.g., a letter to parents) that is intended to reveal their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and to demonstrate how they use language, and, finally, participate in a one-on-one interview. Successful applicants are given their subject assignments and asked to enroll in the Fellows program. A computer system assigns them to a region, taking into consideration their subject area, schools' needs, and fellows' preferences. The New York City school system has 10 regions, and each college and university participating in the Teaching Fellows program serves fellows from a specific region. Thus, a fellow's teaching assignment dictates the institution of higher education at which he or she will enroll during the program. Once the fellows receive regional assignments they begin looking for a teaching position in that region, a process consisting of placement fairs, independent searches, and individual interviews facilitated by the Fellows program.

Prior to receiving the temporary state teaching license that allows them to be the teacher of record in a classroom, fellows must pass two state-required exams-the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test and Content Specialty Tests. The program encourages candidates to take the exams as early as possible so that if they do not pass, they will have time to re-take the tests before the fall. Those fellows who don't pass until too late to start teaching in the fall may start to teach midyear if they subsequently pass the exams, although the program has not yet developed what it considers to be a satisfactory method for preparing midyear candidates.

Candidate Training: Content and Pedagogy

Preservice. Fellows start their 200-hour preservice training with two weeks of full-time study at their assigned university. Because fellows are expected to have content expertise before applying to the program, preservice program course work is pedagogically oriented. (The only exception are applicants who were not math majors, but who majored or have extensive professional experience in a related field and who are willing to teach math, which has been an exceptionally hard-to-staff content area for NYC schools. These fellows complete two additional weeks of preservice preparation and additional content requirements over the two years of course work that follows preservice. NYCTF currently admits 300-350 fellows annually to the math-immersion program.)

After two weeks of full-time classes, fellows shift to a combination of course work and field work. Each weekday morning they work as a student teacher at a NYC school where they are overseen by a "cooperating" teacher. Each afternoon they continue taking classes. And for two hours at the end of the day, groups of approximately 30 fellows come together for advisory time facilitated by a fellow adviser. In addition to imparting information and leading discussions about such essential topics as instructional design and delivery and classroom management, they help fellows reflect on their student teaching experiences, what they are learning in the course work, and how everything connects. To inform this process, the advisers also observe fellows during their morning field work. Employed by The New Teacher Project, advisers receive a $6,200 stipend for their work between May and September.

University course work. Once fellows complete their preservice session and become the teacher of record in a classroom, staff from The New Teacher Project and the NYC Department of Education step back and fellows' assigned university becomes their main point of information and support for the duration. Although specific course requirements can vary from one university to another, the general content provided across all of them is guided in part by the state's requirements for certification and in part by what the professors learn about the needs of fellows. How classes are taught is informed by the immediacy of the fellows' teaching responsibilities. A professor who knows that a fellow might need to apply what he or she learns in a Tuesday night university course to a high school chemistry class the next morning is likely to work harder to tie theory to practice in classroom discussions.

The number of fellows served by each university is determined by the number of teaching vacancies in the region it serves and by how many of the vacancies will be filled by a fellow as opposed to a standard hire. Thus, participating universities must remain flexible and be able to adjust to a fluctuating number of fellows from year to year. Each university employs one or more coordinators to manage its role in the Teaching Fellows program. This individual shepherds fellows through the next two years, plans the course work (e.g., decides if it's necessary to increase the sections of an assessment class in order to serve the higher number of fellows in a given year), and manages the university's field consultants. These consultants tend to be retired teachers or administrators, and per state requirements for an alternative route program, they must visit each fellow in his or her classroom at least once a month. In addition to offering feedback and guidance to the fellow, the consultants communicate with the university professors and the coordinator about what's going on in the classrooms they observe.

Most partner universities operate both traditional and alternative route teacher education programs, with alternative route programs especially prominent in high-need areas like mathematics and special education. Pace University, for example, has about as many students in traditional and alternative programs overall, but at its New York City campus almost 90 percent of candidates are in alternative programs.

Mentoring, Supervision, and Support

In addition to the preservice support they receive from fellow advisers and the inservice support they receive from a university's field consultants, fellows can count on two additional sources of assistance.

Program Support. Experienced fellows provide continued support to candidates through e-mail and phone calls. Lead fellows identified at each school site provide orientation and some on-site assistance. The program also provides communication and support through a newsletter and periodic seminars and social events.

Mentors. In the program's start-up years, fellows received school-based mentoring, but the quality and amount was very inconsistent. Some teachers, while excellent in the classroom, are not necessarily good at working with other adults. Future program participants will profit from the Department of Education's decision to institute a mentoring system for all new teachers that follows the model of the New Teacher Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This model involves a formative assessment for which mentors receive specific training and which then guides individualized support. Full-time mentors each work with 17 new teachers as the model is being implemented in NYC for the 2004-05 school year. A challenge is to provide the amount of support required for so many new teachers across the system (650 in one region alone, including 235 fellows), and to match mentors within particular license areas (e.g., science).

Funding

The NYCTF program operates with a $35 million budget from the New York Department of Education. The state has received two federal grants to subsidize the program at certain partner universities enabling them to expand their capacity to fill subject area shortages. Until September 2003, the program covered the entire cost for a fellow to participate. Now, each fellow, through a payroll deduction, pays $4,000, one-third of the program cost. NYCTF understands the financial burden of changing careers and pays a nontaxable $2,500 stipend for each fellow's participation in the preservice training. The 44 fellows become full-time teachers after the seven weeks (nine for people needing the extra math content) and receive full salary and benefits as employees of the NYC Department of Education.

Success Indicators

The program is filling a significant need in NYC, accounting for 30 percent of new hires in math. The popularity of the program is evident in the huge number of applications-around 17,000 a year. Its effectiveness is tracked through retention rates. About 90 percent of candidates complete their first full year as teacher of record and return for the second year. The program is working with partner universities to track longer-term completion and retention rates.

Key Success Factors

Program staff identify the following as having significantly contributed to program success thus far:

  • engaging The New Teacher Project;

  • targeting recruitment to a wide market with the message of "do something meaningful in your career";

  • taking great care with selection;

  • building a big enough pool of applicants to allow selectivity in accepting candidates;

  • constantly reassessing the program and the school-system needs;

  • putting technical data systems in place;

  • engaging the universities in the process early and often; and

  • working collaboratively with unions and regional representatives.

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Last Modified: 04/18/2008