Innovations in the News
Teachers' College, Western Governors University
Western Governors University has developed a dynamic, virtual Teachers College. The "college" is not the typical "bricks and mortar" institution. It is a national telecommunications network that provides accredited, online degrees and certificates to K-12 teachers and prospective teachers. The program serves those who are already teaching in K-12 schools but who need additional education credentials. It also serves working adults who are seeking teacher certification to enter the education workforce, including paraprofessionals already working in schools. Those completing the program will be licensed in elementary education (with a reading emphasis), math, science, and English language development.
The university provides a creative alternative path to teacher certification. Its approach to education is based on competency in critical knowledge and skills measured by assessments, not number of hours spent in a college classroom. Rather than developing its own course, the university collaborates with colleges, universities, corporations, and training organizations across the United States to make the best use of distance learning materials available to students through the Internet. The online catalog contains about 1200 courses from 45 partnering institutions.
The rigorous enrollment process is conducted online, too. First the prospective student participates in a 4-week course, Education Without Boundaries, to become familiar with the way WGU delivers its coursework and the competency-based system. Each student also completes online pre-assessments that cover each domain the student is required to master. The results of these pre-assessments are revised and discussed with a mentor who also helps develop an individual plan with the student. This plan, similar to an IEP conducted in schools, clearly marks the pathway to graduation.
Once the student is enrolled, the mentor is always present, helping determine when the student is ready for the assessments. The assessment schedule for each domain includes measuring learning progress, performance tasks, performance observations, and the final competency exams. These assessments are developed by testing experts and approved by the Assessment Council of national experts along with the Program Councils for each area of academic focus. The Program Councils include nationally known researchers and K-12 practitioners.
Western Governors University received a grant to develop the Teachers College through the Stars Schools program administered by the Office of Innovation and Improvement. While its enrollment is currently fairly small, since the program is brand-new, it hopes to expand greatly in coming years. For more information about the university and the Teachers College, go to Western Governors University
One of the responsibilities of the Office of Innovation and Improvement is to oversee about 25 grant programs that foster education innovation at the state and local levels. In the near future, the Charter School Grant Program will be open for competition. States apply for these funds that are then allocated to public charter schools in the state. (If charter schools are in states that do not apply, then the schools can apply directly.)
The Teaching American History program will also be conducting a competition within the next month. Grants will go directly to school districts, in partnership with a university, historical society, or another organization with an expertise in history. Finally, the Advanced Placement Test Fee and Incentives programs will be holding competitions soon. These programs make grants to states to pay test fees and make advanced placement courses available to low-income students. (The most current information will be posted on our web site under the "Funding" Opportunities button.)
Innovations in the News
The New Mexico House of Representatives has approved legislation that is aimed at settling disputes between local school boards and charter schools. Some charter school advocates are concerned that the bill will make it harder for charter schools to be approved. [More-Carlsbad Current-Argus] (Mar 1)
In Lebanon, PA, the school superintendent is proposing that parents get a report card based on how involved they are in their children's education. [More-CNN] (Feb. 7)
Last Modified: 04/26/2011