Press Room NEWSLETTERS
The Education Innovator #24
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 June 27, 2005 • Number 24
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Feature
Alternative Certification Program (ACP), Hillsborough County, Florida
What's New
Secretary Spellings addresses National Parent Teacher Association; President Bush gives remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast; OII announces new grant, the Presidential Academies for American History and Civics Education; Jobs for the Future releases toolkit aimed at high school reform; Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) announces finalists for Outstanding Young Educator Award; and Finance Project issues report on teacher training.
Innovations in the News
Seeds of Health, the nonprofit organization that operates schools under Milwaukee's voucher school program, is slated to open a charter high school, plus information on teacher quality and technology.

Three Cycles of Coaching and Support Prepare Highly Qualified Teachers for Florida Certification
During these last steamy weeks of June, when many Florida teachers are cooling off from an intense school year, state education leaders are heating up plans to expand pay policies that tie part of teachers' salaries to their effectiveness in the classroom. Soon Florida Department of Education officials will require districts to create more robust performance pay plans, which will be made available to all teachers, and will connect pay more directly to performance. According to the proposed initiative, districts and teachers' unions would decide how to implement merit pay. Now, across the state, districts must determine how to measure performance.

One district, which has already been addressing this issue through its belief that teachers' performance is linked to the quality of their training, is the School District of Hillsborough County. Hillsborough created its Alternative Certification Program (ACP) in 1998 to offer training opportunities to new teachers and, since its inception, the program has helped to certify nearly 800 teachers and has grown over 300 percent.

Hillsborough County was able to establish its own alternative route to teacher certification due to a decision by the State Legislature in 1997 that gave districts the option of creating their own programs. The Hillsborough program's philosophy is based on the district's commitment to improving student achievement by providing high-quality training and professional development to teachers through a competency-based program. The goal of ACP is to train non-education majors, who have rich content knowledge, in pedagogy, so they may convey core content in a way that has a positive impact on students' educational experiences.

In order to be eligible for ACP, a candidate must be a paid instructional employee of the School District of Hillsborough County or a school board-approved charter school. The candidate also must hold or be eligible for a temporary teaching certificate from the state, which entails having earned a bachelor's degree. During the academic year, the district's Office of Training and Staff Development hosts six to ten informational meetings and, in the summer, organizes two large ACP recruitment fairs. All ACP candidates must attend an informational meeting to obtain a program packet and an application. After the candidate's hiring principal has signed the application, the journey to alternative certification begins.

One of the unique aspects of ACP is its accessibility. Once hired by the district, candidates can enter the program at any point during the year. This rolling admissions process ensures that mid-year candidates do not have to wait until the fall to receive the same support and instruction as other participants who may have entered the program before the academic year began. Candidates who do enroll in ACP during the summer spend nearly two weeks in pre-service training from the district. Candidates meet with content specialists for three to six days in July, participate in a three-day new teacher orientation program, and then meet with school faculty where they receive school-specific training.

Cathy Jones, supervisor for the district's training and support, notes, "One of ACP's greatest assets is the convenience of the program. Candidates enter when they are ready. ACP courses are offered in our district schools in the evenings and on Saturdays."

ACP candidates have two years to finish the program, although most need only one year to complete its two components, coursework and fieldwork, which are taken in conjunction with one another. Generally, ACP handles pedagogical training, and any content training is the responsibility of the candidate. The ACP curriculum includes eight mandatory courses, which are taught by teachers employed with the district and trained in professional development. Courses vary in duration and are offered in the following areas: Transition into Teaching, Teacher Induction, Effective Classroom Management, Professionalism through Integrity, Effective Teaching Strategies, Reading for Success, Integrating Technology in Education, Crisis Intervention, and Independent Reading/English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). These courses can be taken in any order and are aligned with the PDF, (5KB), established by the Florida Department of Education, which are designed to characterize high-quality teachers of the twenty-first century. These practices cover topics such as diversity, planning, critical thinking, and technology. In crafting its curricula, ACP intended that each course would help candidates gain the knowledge and skills to successfully demonstrate Florida's 12 Accomplished Practices.

The fieldwork component of the program, often referred to as the "internship," consists of a three-cycle observation process that focuses on the instructional performance of the candidates. Because candidates can enter ACP at different times during the year, the program is organized into distinct observation and coaching cycles. The first runs for 18 weeks, while the other two each run for nine weeks. These cycles include a minimum of seven data collection observations, three formal observations, and work with a mentor. After an ACP administrator conducts an initial observation, the administrator, candidate, and a veteran teacher write an action plan for the candidate. This plan guides subsequent observations and coaching and is updated at the end of each cycle.

Participants in ACP are provided with two layers of support during their training. In addition to a site-based support team that consists of the school principal and a veteran teacher, Hillsborough's Office of Training and Staff Development provides each candidate with a mentor who is an experienced administrator formerly employed by the district. These mentors come to the program with expertise in teacher training and support and provide candidates with insight into Hillsborough's educational system. Mentors usually work with groups of 12 to 15 ACP candidates and are liaisons between candidates, their school sites, and the Office of Training and Staff Development. Reviewing lesson plans, advising on classroom management techniques, and discussing grading procedures are all part of the mentors' repertoire.

To complete the program, candidates must submit a competency portfolio to the district. Principals at the school sites are responsible for each ACP candidate's portfolio process. Portfolios generally consist of documentation that demonstrates that the candidates have met the standards of the Florida Performance Measurement System, a screening and observation tool that is aligned with the state's 12 Accomplished Practices. Student work, lesson plans, and other materials typically included in a traditional first-year teacher's portfolio also can be inserted into the ACP requirement. In order to earn Florida teaching certification after they complete the ACP, candidates must meet the requirements of state law and pass a state General Knowledge Exam, the Florida Educator Examination, and the Florida Subject Area Exam.

ACP is evaluated based on an audit of participants' portfolios, participants' surveys, administrators' surveys, and an assessment of each participant's employment status over a three-year period. As of June 2004, 98 percent of candidates completed the program, and 87 percent of ACP graduates remained in the district to teach at elementary and secondary schools.

No Child Left Behind requires that highly qualified teachers should lead all classrooms in the nation by the year 2006. In addition, President George W. Bush has proposed a "Teacher Incentive Fund," which would reward teachers and principals who show progress toward raising student achievement levels and closing the achievement gap. This fund would include merit pay for educators, similar to the efforts of the Florida Department of Education to create more robust performance pay plans for its teachers.

Last year, Hillsborough County received a U.S. Department of Education Transition to Teaching grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. The grant enabled the ACP to recruit and train more teachers. Hillsborough's Alternative Certification Program was highlighted in the U.S. Department of Education's Innovations in Education book devoted to Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification from the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Resources: Note: The featured program is an example of one teacher certification program. The program is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.

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What's New
From the White House

President George W. Bush recently addressed the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. The President acknowledged that family values, "los valores de fe y familia," enrich the nation and are the cornerstone of the Hispanic American community. The President also recognized the efforts of Hispanic American faith-based and community organizations around the country, including the Acción Social Comunitaria, an OII-funded Parent Information and Resource Center. (June 16)

From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings recently joined 200 graduates of the Washington Scholarship Fund program and their families, including the recipients of the first-ever federally funded opportunity scholarship program, in a commencement ceremony she called "a tribute to high expectations." The DC School Choice Incentive Program, administered by the Washington Scholarship Fund and monitored by OII, provided scholarships for more than 1,000 low-income students to attend a private school in the District of Columbia that best suits their academic needs. (June 29)

"We must care for every single child." This was the message Secretary Spellings brought to the National Parent Teacher Association's (PTA) Annual Convention. The Secretary praised No Child Left Behind, noting that the law gives parents options and information, and children an equal opportunity to attain a high-quality education. The Secretary also thanked the National PTA for its work in schools and encouraged its members to reach out to new families and communities. (June 24)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII)

OII will administer a new grant program, Presidential Academies for American History and Civics Education. The program supports workshops for both veteran and new teachers of American history and civics to strengthen their knowledge and preparation for teaching these subjects. The deadline for transmittal of applications is August 5, 2005. (June 21)

High School Reform

A new resource, Building a Portfolio of High Schools: A Strategic Investment Toolkit designed by Jobs For the Future (JFF) guides district reform leaders and other education stakeholders through the process of planning a portfolio of excellent schools, structuring the relationship of the district with potential partners who could assist in education reform, and developing strategies for creating and maintaining new schools. (June 30)

Teacher Quality

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has named two finalists for its 2005 Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA). Charles Coleman, principal of Khowhemun Elementary School in Duncan, British Columbia, was selected for his leadership in increasing student achievement at his school in reading and mathematics. Michael Powell, a sixth grade teacher and science resource coordinator at Patuxent Elementary School in Upper Marlboro (MD) was selected for his expertise in environmental education as well as his efforts to raise awareness of African American history. Two other finalists will be selected in the fall, and the 2005 Outstanding Educator of the Year will be honored at the 2006 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in April. The deadline for OYEA nominations is October 15, 2005. (June 20)

The Finance Project, a Washington, DC-based non-profit research organization, has released a new report, Preparing and Training Professionals: Comparing Education to Six Other Fields download files PDF (581K). The report compares teacher training and professional development to that of six other professions: architecture, accounting, nursing, law, firefighting, and law enforcement. Although these professions and their training strategies rightly differ from education in many ways, the report notes some disparities that may help to shed some light on current challenges with teacher training. (June 2005)

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Innovations in the News

Charter Schools
Seeds of Health, the nonprofit organization that operates five schools under Milwaukee's voucher school program, is slated to open a charter high school called Tenor, which will focus on preparing students for various careers. In 2001, the Milwaukee school board granted the organization permission to open Veritas High School, a college-preparatory charter school that began operation in a Christian Science church. Seeds of Health, run by Marcia Spector, also manages Windlake, Parkside, and Hilltop Elementary schools. By this fall, the voucher schools are expected to serve more than 900 students. [More-The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] (June 17) [free registration]

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has announced the formation of the nonprofit Education Venture Fund, an initiative aimed at increasing the amount of support for public schools in Louisiana. The fund, which will seek out both public and private money, is projected to invest $4 million in 2005-2006 and $10 million in 2007-2008. Nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, charter management organizations, existing charter schools, and school districts are eligible to apply for funds. Interested entities can begin applying in July. The first year of funding will focus on failing schools. After the initial year, the Education Venture Fund will begin to focus on developing new schools. [More-Biz New Orleans] (June 24)

Teacher Quality
Virginia recently said goodbye to the Praxis I exam, replacing it with a more rigorous reading and comprehension exam for teacher licensure. No Child Left Behind and its requirement that all teachers must be "highly-qualified" by 2006 has prompted many states to revise their specifications for licensing teachers. Officials believe that Virginia's new test will ensure that teachers are more literate and knowledgeable about the subjects they teach. In addition to the new "literacy and communications skills" test, teachers will have to pass high-level exams in their subject areas. [More-The Washington Post] (June 22) [free registration]

Technology
Homeroom announcements at Parkland High School in Allentown (PA) are anything but ordinary. Announcements, news stories, and interviews are broadcast via the student-run video production, Parkland Morning News (PMN), which just garnered top honors at the first-ever Student Video Discovery Awards. The award program, created by eSchool News and sponsored by Discovery Education, which manages the Discovery Channel, aims to recognize and honor excellence in student video production from high schools and colleges across North America. [More-eSchool News] (June 1) [free registration]

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009