The Education Innovator #4
Volume V
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The Education Innovator
 May 31, 2007 • Number 4
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Transition to Teaching Program: Alternative Routes to Certification
What's New
Innovations in the News

Transition To Teaching Program: Helping to Meet the Demand for Highly Qualified Teachers in High-Need Districts

"Nothing helps a child learn as much as a great teacher… I've seen first hand the tremendous work teachers are doing to provide a quality education to all. Their efforts are helping further close the achievement gap and enabling every child to reach their potential."
-- U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings

Students today are being required to achieve at much higher levels in order to remain competitive in the 21st century global economy, and while our student population has grown much more diverse, all students are required to meet high standards. All this makes the teacher's job tougher than ever. One innovative response to the challenge of recruiting and sustaining the high quality teachers we need is the Transition to Teaching (TTT) program. Housed in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), this competitive grant program aims to increase the pool of qualified teachers in high-need schools and districts by recruiting non-traditional teacher candidates, preparing them through alternative routes to certification, and supporting them in their first three years in the classroom.

Since 2002, TTT has awarded 150 grants to higher education institutions, state educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), and nonprofit organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate innovative strategies in the recruitment, selection, preparation, and support of highly qualified teachers in high-need districts and schools. Districts must meet both a poverty and teacher qualification requirement to be considered "high need" according to the statute. Additionally, TTT is focused on core academic subjects at all grades levels, including mathematics, science, special education, and English as a Second Language. Over the first four years of the program, an estimated 17,600 TTT participants were hired to teach and were working in these subject areas.

Connecting With the Growth of Alternative Routes

As early as 1983, eight states began implementing alternative pathways to teacher licensure for college graduates who had not earned degrees in education, but who desired to teach. Over the past two decades, there have been dramatic increases in alternative route policies and programs, as tracked by the National Center for Education Information (NCEI), which publishes an annual, state-by-state compendium of data on alternative teacher certification. Based on NCEI's forthcoming Alternative Routes to Teaching, the number of individuals who entered teaching via alternative routes increased from an estimated 285 in 1985 to more than 50,000 in 2006, which represents nearly one third of the total number of new teachers hired that year. All 50 states now have established alternative route policies and programs, and TTT grants presently serve LEAs in 40 states.

Using and, in some instances, enhancing existing state policies and programs, TTT grantees are challenged to find ways to support the recruitment of three distinct types of alternative route candidates: mid-career professionals, recent college graduates, and paraprofessionals. An even greater challenge for grantees is to find ways to retain these new teachers for at least three years, which increases the likelihood that the teachers will remain in the profession.

TTT grants are awarded for five years to provide sufficient time to support new teachers prepared through the program. A recent American Institutes for Research (AIR) interim evaluation report to Congress found that TTT grantees were addressing the key No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy issues attributed to the grant program: increasing the pool of highly qualified teachers by recruiting non-traditional candidates; raising standards and program rigor and encouraging the creation and expansion of alternative routes to teacher certification, while lowering time and cost barriers related to teacher preparation; and improving the retention rate of teachers through strong mentoring programs and induction.

Innovative strategies in each of TTT's three sequential phases - recruitment and selection, preparation, and support for retention - have begun to emerge, and the U.S. Department of Education is sharing them among TTT grantees and the field.

Recruitment and Selection

Even before TTT was launched, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of talented individuals who become teachers, was pioneering strategies aimed at the critical first step of reaching out to non-traditional teacher candidates. With support in part from the Department through TTT, TNTP continues to partner with school districts, SEAs, colleges and universities, and other educational entities to increase the impact of non-traditional teachers on student achievement.

Kaya Henderson, vice president of strategic partnerships for TNTP, says that alternative certification programs are helping to staff America's urban classrooms with the next generation of teachers. "We work with most of the major urban areas across the country. The teachers work in our hardest to staff schools; they are in our most challenging subject areas like math, science and special education. Our teachers bring real world experience-they've come out of the workplace. We have accountants who make math come alive and we've seen chemists make science come alive in ways that other teachers aren't able to do."

Based on a process of continual data collection and analysis of the 16 districts in which TNTP is assisting with teacher recruitment, outreach strategies are carefully tailored to fit each district's locale and often limited budget, according to Ariela Rozman, vice president of TNTP's Teaching Fellows Programs. These strategies range from word of mouth and personal referrals, in the case of special education candidates , to electronic messages targeted at Internet-savvy mathematics and science prospects.

However, according the Henderson, the best way to recruit teacher candidates is "by telling them the truth." Henderson says that to get teachers into hard-to-staff schools, "We tell them how great the need is, and how great the challenge is, but how awesome the rewards are. You'd be surprised how many people who, after a long career in a different industry, want to do something meaningful, want to do something that has tangible results they can see every day and that makes a difference."

When individuals respond to a recruitment message that uses TNTP's selection model, they are immediately made aware of the steps it will take to become teachers. For example, the Chicago Teaching Fellows program uses the TNTP model to help "level the playing field" for students in the Chicago Public Schools, and applicants to this program understand the amount of time it will take to complete each step.

Another strategy of TNTP is to help districts streamline their teacher hiring processes. A 2004 TNTP report, Missed Opportunities, revealed the need for this service due to a widespread teacher recruitment problem in urban districts that resulted from burdensome hiring processes - ones that too often caused potential candidates to give up or take jobs with competing districts. The compelling case made by the report prompted OII to add a competitive preference priority to its 2004 TTT grant competition, challenging applicants from high-need districts to examine and change their hiring processes.

Broward County Schools (Fla.), the nation's sixth-largest district, had already begun confronting this problem. As in many other districts, a recruitment fair in the spring attracted 1,200 new teacher candidates, but various bureaucratic procedures resulted in principals hiring only 250 of them, just 12 percent of the 2,000 new teachers that Broward hires annually. Gracie Diaz, the school system's former Director of Instructional Staffing, began using district data on new hiring trends to convince stakeholders at both the school and central office levels to acknowledge barriers and begin removing them.

With the help of a TTT grant in 2004, Broward overhauled its hiring process. Among the changes, principals gained immediate access to candidates' applications online as opposed to seeing them nearly three weeks after they had been submitted. New teachers hired from the spring fair increased to 800. The district established the Streamlined One-Stop (SOS) Center as part of a new Teaching and Leadership Center. The streamlining, according to Diaz, who became director of the new center, also included getting new teachers into the payroll system early to ensure an on-time first paycheck. This strategy resulted in 94 percent of teachers getting their initial checks on time this year as opposed to only 58 percent in 2004.

Preparing for the Classroom

Another key aspect of any alternative route to certification program is to give teacher candidates tools to understand pedagogy and classroom management. One measure of a teacher candidate's readiness for the classroom is the state teacher examination. The Region XIII Education Service Center (ESC), located in Austin, Texas, prepares candidates to pass the Texas Examinations of Educator Standards (TExES), download files PDF (34.5KB), a multi-part exam that covers classroom management, instructional design and delivery, and professionalism. After disaggregating candidates' scores, administrators realized that how well teachers performed on the tests varied greatly. The reason: different curricula from one group of participants to the next.

With the help of a TTT grant, ESC conducted a curriculum audit and discovered that not all the standards in the TExES were being addressed or, if they were addressed, there was no expectation of mastery. Using Understanding By Design as the basis for a comprehensive redesign, ESC recently revised its programming to improve the curriculum provided for teacher candidates. To reinforce these changes, training for teacher candidates' mentors also was improved.

Supporting the New Teacher

Once a new teacher is ready to begin his or her classroom assignment, TTT provides a support system to help with the instructional advice that can make or break a new teacher. The availability of computers and the Internet can make a multitude of resources available but, any teacher, and especially a new teacher, has limited time to search for help. The Performance-based Academic Coaching Teams (PACT) Web site, developed by the Texas A&M Research Foundation, is a secure site for new teachers containing resources and instructional tools that include chat rooms, discussion boards, and electronic mentors (eMentors). Providing the specially designed content and real-time assistance to more than 1,000 new teachers are 40 classroom mentors, more than a dozen university professors, and 23 eMentors.

In Newport News, Va., a hands-on, personalized teacher-mentoring program known as "cognitive coaching" has been developed with the help of another TTT grant. With 40 percent or more of its K-12 teachers eligible for retirement, administrators in the district not only needed to recruit new teachers through an alternative route, they also recognized that the supply of experienced teachers who are school-based mentors to new teachers was in short supply. Furthermore, they observed that alternative route candidates typically lacked experience with "thinking about what they do and how and why they do it," known as reflective practice, according to Dr. Belinda Gimbert, co-coordinator of the Newport News TTT program.

The solution: tap the dual resources of retiring teachers in the district and faculty at neighboring Old Dominion University, who desired to have a deeper connection to the classroom. "Cognitive Content Partnership Coaches," was the result. These coaches are paired with up to three TTT teachers at the annual summer New Teacher Academy. Matches are made based on the content experience of the coach. The coaches connect with the state-required, school-based teacher mentor, forming a supportive triad that includes the TTT teacher. Equally as important in the model, according to Gimbert, is the mutual learning that occurs for coaches and new teachers. Not only do coaches regularly receive professional development to stay current on curricular content and approaches in the district, but they accompany their partner teachers to conferences in order for both to experience and reflect on new information.

Based on the success of cognitive coaching, the district is increasing funding to continue the effort for its alternative route teachers and to include new teachers who arrive by the traditional route.

Sustaining the Effort

NCLB challenges districts and states to ensure that every student has a capable and highly qualified teacher in his or her classroom. The Transition to Teaching program, with its emphasis on meeting the immediate need for teachers in high-need schools and districts, and on sustaining success in teacher recruitment, preparation, induction, and retention beyond the federal grant, is helping transform this promise into reality.

Resources: Note: The featured Transition to Teaching projects are innovative; however, they may not have evidence of effectiveness for rigorous evaluations and may not be replicable under differing conditions.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

In a statement, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings reinforced the findings of a Georgetown University report on the D.C. School Choice Program, highlighting the positive parental satisfaction with the program. (May 18)

The Nation's Report Card: U.S. History 2006 revealed that America's twelfth, eighth, and especially fourth graders know more about U.S. history now than in the past, according to the 2006 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment. The Nation's Report Card: Civics 2006 showed that about two out of three American students in grades 4, 8, and 12 have at least a basic knowledge of civics, according to the 2006 NAEP assessment. Average scores improved from 1998 to 2006 only at grade 4. Most of this improvement was seen among lower-performing students. Secretary Spellings responded to the release of the reports. (May 16)

Secretary Spellings sent letters to Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, respectively, of the U.S. Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and to Representatives George Mill er (D-CA) and Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the U.S. Committee on Education and Labor, inviting them and their staff to join her in a discussion on the reauthorization of NCLB. (May 11) In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Secretary Spellings said, "federal student aid is crying out for reform." In her prepared remarks she gave the Department's recommendations for making the federal student aid process more transparent. (May 10)

Secretary Spellings released findings from the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC), which revealed that despite decades of significant federal investment in science and math education, there is a general dearth of evidence of effective practices and activities in programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The Council recommended that federal STEM education programs be integrated and coordinated so that the impact of the federal investment is measurable and more positive. (May 10)

Secretary Spellings spoke to educators, policy makers, and business leaders about the federal role in ending the high school dropout crisis at the National Summit on America's Silent Epidemic in Washington. (May 9)

Secretary Spellings issued a statement recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week saying, "Quality teachers are making it happen, and students are responding by making impressive gains. Reading scores for nine-year-olds have increased more in five years than in the previous 28 years combined. And achievement gaps between poor and minority students and their peers are finally beginning to close." (May 7)

In June, 141 outstanding high school seniors will be honored as 2007 Presidential Scholars. The students, who will be recognized by Secretary Spellings and the President at the White House, have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contributions to school and community. (May 2)

Summer programs--those that encourage reading and learning during the vacation to ensure students come back to school prepared to achieve--will be the focus of the June (to air June 19, 8-9 p.m. ET) edition of "Education News Parents Can Use," the U.S. Department of Education's monthly television program. The broadcast will showcase award-winning and effective summer learning programs; explore innovative strategies to engage low-income and disadvantaged youth during the summer; profile corporate, community and library-based initiatives designed to encourage students to read and learn during the break; and spotlight the efforts of organizations dedicated to providing disadvantaged students with access to books and reading materials in the summer and throughout the year. To learn more about viewing options, including webcasts, visit the Web site or call 1-800-USA-LEARN.

Teachers and other educators are encouraged to register now for the U.S. Department of Education's fourth annual summer workshops, where teachers share successful strategies to raise student achievement. Eighteen free workshops will be held around the country beginning May 31, and they are filling up quickly. The workshops are part of the Department's Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, which supports teachers in a variety of ways, including keeping them informed about the latest strategies and research for closing the achievement gap and helping all students meet high standards. For more information, visit the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative.

Arts Education

The National Endowment for the Arts' The Big Read seeks to provide citizens with the chance to read and discuss a single book within their communities. Communities are encouraged to apply for one of approximately 400 grants that will be awarded in 2008; 200 will be awarded for programming occurring between January and June (application deadline: July 31, 2007), and 200 more will be awarded for programming occurring between September and December. In addition to a grant, communities will receive a library of resources, including reader's and teacher's guides and audio guides with commentary from artists, educators, and public figures. (May 2007)

In a South Lawn ceremony with President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and Secretary Spellings, music teacher Andrea Peterson was named the 2007 National Teacher of the Year. Peterson, who comes from a family of educators, (including her father, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law) teaches at Monte Cristo Elementary School in Granite Falls, Washington. She is the 57th recipient of the award and only the second music instructor to be so honored. The National Teacher of the Year program, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the ING Foundation, designates an outstanding representative from among 56 State Teachers of the Year (representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, several U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity). A panel of 15 leading national education organizations selects the winner. (Apr. 26)

A special publication download files (527KB), from the Arts Education Network, a program of Americans for the Arts, examines the market for arts education programs in after-school settings and asserts that high quality after-school arts programming may prepare students for the "creative economy." (Spring 2007)

Charter Schools/Choice

The Center for Education Reform honored 53 of the nation's best charter schools as part of its National Charter School of the Year program. The recognized schools, from 24 states, were chosen from nearly 4,000 charter schools for their achievement, innovation, and accountability. (May 16)

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has announced U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R-GA), State Representative Dwight Evans (D-PA), and Mayor Richard Daley (D-Chicago) as the recipients of the 2007 Champion for Charters Award. (May 4)

A new University of Southern California report, asserts that California charter schools get "more bang for the buck" - meaning that they are improving at a faster rate than their traditional public school counterparts. The report also reveals that charters trail traditional public schools in overall academic achievement and are challenged by the needs of English language learners. (May 2007)

Each year, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) releases demographic and academic data for its schools that have been in operation long enough to release data. In 2006, 44 of 52 schools were profiled. At the state level, 59 percent of KIPP fifth graders outperformed their local districts in reading, and 74 percent did so in mathematics. In eighth grade, 100 percent of KIPP students outperformed their district counterparts in both subjects. The report may be purchased online. (Apr. 2007)

A new report, School Choice and State Constitutions: A Guide to Designing School Choice Programs, from the Institute for Justice and the American Legislative Exchange Council, catalogs each state's constitutional provisions and court decisions that could affect legislation related to school choice programs. (Apr. 2007)

Education Reform

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) has released The Public School Speaks, a new DVD that highlights the importance of public education and makes a case for increased financial and public support for public schools. The DVD is part of AASA's "Stand Up for Public Education" campaign, a multi-year effort to support high-quality public education. (May 4)

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) now is accepting proposals for research sessions for the 2008 Annual Conference & Exhibit Show in New Orleans. ASCD is seeking proposals concerning action research, education policy and impact evaluation studies, and research on educational leadership. The deadline for research proposals is June 15. (May 2)

Eli Broad and Bill Gates, two well-known philanthropists in American public education, have combined forces and over $60 million to create "Strong American Schools," a nonpartisan public awareness and action campaign designed to make education a top issue in the 2008 presidential election. (Apr. 25)

Urban school districts are rapidly narrowing overall scores and racial achievement gaps, but they lag behind others in their states, according to the seventh annual Beating the Odds report from the Council of the Great City Schools. Council Executive Director Michael Casserly stated that restructuring and revamping curriculum in particular have yielded "substantial progress." (Apr. 2007)

School Facilities

The American Architectural Foundation, in partnership with KnowledgeWorks Foundation, is sponsoring the 2007 Richard Riley Award. This annual award recognizes design and educational excellence in "schools as centers of community." The winning school will receive a $10,000 prize and school representatives will be invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony with former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley. The application deadline is July 9. (May 24)

Teacher Quality and Development

Teacher education programs should spend more time on child and adolescent development, according to a new report download files PDF, (441KB), issued jointly by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which evaluates more than half of U.S. teacher training programs and the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (Apr. 30)

California can combat teacher shortages and encourage teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools by making meaningful improvements to the teaching and learning environment, according to a new study from the California State University Center for Teacher Quality. Based on an online survey of nearly 2,000 teachers, the report provides insights into the reasons teachers leave and offers recommendations regarding the steps that policymakers and education leaders can take to retain more qualified teachers. (Apr. 26)


Global SchoolNet is a growing international network of over 90,000 online educators who engage in online project-based learning activities with students. Since its inception 15 years ago, the organization has reached more than one million students from 45,000 schools across 194 countries. (May 24)

A new database, compiled by Education Week, tabulates graduation data for school systems based on simple attrition, tracking the size of a high school class from the fall of freshman year to graduation day. Secretary Spellings said the data show that half of the nation's dropouts come from a small group of largely urban "dropout factories" - high schools in which "graduation is a 50-50 shot or worse." (May 11)

Scientists are planning to construct an expansive, free Web site, called the Encyclopedia of Life, to compile data on Earth's 1.8 million known species, including descriptions, pictures, maps, videos, and links to entire genomes and scientific journal papers. Creators hope the site will " inspire a new generation of scientists." (May 10)


Innovations in the News

Arts in Education
At the 'Aikahi Elementary School, the arts are an integrated part of other core subjects, including math, history and Social Studies, and English. Hawaii's State Department of Education (SDE) encourages arts integration as part of the everyday learning experience. "The goal is to develop the whole child," according to SDE art education specialist Alison Ibara-Kawabe. The state education agency and the Hawaii Alliance for Arts Education, a 2006 Model Development and Dissemination: OII Arts in Education grantee, support local arts education improvements through teacher professional development and an online arts education tool kit. [More-Honolulu Advertiser] (May 21)

Debate is growing over the opening of a St. Mary's County (Md.) charter school in a rural county that has High School Assessment and Maryland School Assessment scores that rank among the best half-dozen in the state. Supporters of the Chesapeake Public Charter School, which will open in the fall, say even the best test scores can belie schools that are not serving all children well, and that parents deserve a choice of where to educate their children. [More-Washington Post] (May 15) (subscription required)

Education Reform/School Improvement
A national study, "Opportunities to Learn in America's Elementary Classrooms," published in the March 30, 2007, issue of the journal Science, download files PDF reports that researchers are beginning to concede that instruction itself probably has more impact on learning, and on achievement gaps, than any other factor. [More-Education Week] (May 15) (paid subscription required)

Montgomery County, Maryland, school officials have started to use M-Stat, their version of a celebrated initiative that uses statistics and computers to identify and analyze problems. The school system is among the first in the nation to adopt a variant of CompStat, the New York City police program that analyzes crime trends. The "Stat" concept has drawn notice not only for its success but also for encouraging lively -- and occasionally sharp -- exchanges among school leaders. [More-Washington Post] (May 1) (subscription required)

Portland Schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips has accepted the job of overseeing $3.4 billion in school reform grants for the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the grants is to increase the Nation's high school graduation and college readiness rates. Phillips will leave Oregon's largest district, having closed eight schools in her three-year tenure, converted dozens of others to K-8 schools, expanded full-day kindergarten, and helped pass a local option tax to put the district on stable financial ground. [More-The Oregonian] (Apr. 26)

The City of Chicago, with help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, plans to add 11 high schools to an existing $21 million school reform initiative. Mayor Richard Daley and officials of the Chicago school system made the announcement at a news conference at the Carver Military Academy, one of 14 schools that is part of the city's high school reform efforts. [More-Chicago Tribune] (May 8) (subscription required)

Teacher Quality and Development
Teacher retention is said to be the chief need for improving schools, according to Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. "Greater attention and resources must be placed on retaining promising beginning teachers," he said. [More-Richmond Times-Dispatch] (May 10)

The Troops to Teachers program in Florida is among the largest in the country with more than 760 teachers in schools statewide who were former members of the U.S. military. As this national program, which is supported by a Department of Education interagency agreement with the Department of Defense, nears the celebration of its 10,000th client, third-year teacher Marvin Wethington, a former Army drill sergeant, credits Troops to Teachers with his transition to a first grade classroom at Westside Elementary in Pensacola. [] (May 9)

School districts in California concerned about present and future teacher shortages are using a variety of recruitment strategies to identify retirees, parents, and others who are interested in teaching. Help with recruitment of potential teachers qualified to teach math and science is provided by business partners such as IBM, which assists with the tuition costs of its employees who are interested in transitioning to the classroom. [] (Apr. 30)

Google, Inc., recently announced that it will provide free technology to four states to make information on their Web sites far more accessible to search engines. The technology, called "sitemap protocol," allows Web masters to alert search engines, including Microsoft, Yahoo and, to pages they want included. For those looking for the vast amounts of information on the Department's Web site, for example, it will soon be accessible through Google and other search engines. [More-Sacramento Bee] (Apr. 30) (subscription required)

An estimated 700,000 students in American public schools take classes online, up from less than 50,000 students in 2001, according to a March study commissioned by the Sloan Consortium, a national alliance of educational institutions exploring the role of online learning. If the trend continues, the tally of students plugged into class could rise to a million nationwide. [] (March 6)



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