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U of M and Teach for America agree to develop new teacher preparation program

September 18, 2013

To ensure Minnesota’s P-12 students have the best-prepared classroom teachers, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Teach for America (TFA) have agreed to create the first-ever alternative teacher training program for corps members under the Minnesota Alternative Teacher Licensure law.

Annually, a minimum of 40 TFA corps members will participate in eight weeks of localized training through the University instead of participating in one of TFA’s national five-week summer institutes. Training will include rigorous, initial preparation coursework and ongoing credit-based coursework and learning experiences during corps members’ two-year commitment to TFA.

The University retains the authority for instructional design, content and evaluation of the program, as well as the determination of candidate admission (subsequent to TFA’s rigorous recruitment and selection process), degree clearance and recommendation for licensure, according to the agreement. Once developed, the program—which is scheduled to begin in summer 2014—will be submitted for approval to the Minnesota Board of Teaching.

The program will be a new pathway to teaching, added to the University’s current, comprehensive preparation programs for individuals who choose teaching as a career.

"The core mission of the University’s teacher preparation programs is to ensure that Minnesota’s P-12 students have the best-prepared classroom teachers, regardless of their path to licensure," said Dean Jean Quam of the University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). "This agreement outlines a plan to create our state’s first-ever alternative teacher preparation model with high standards for quality and ongoing support for teacher candidates. Given that research is a core mission of the University, we are committed to creating effective teacher preparation programs and engaging in ongoing evaluation of new and existing models."

Under the agreement, TFA corps members’ successful completion of the new program requirements will result in recommendation for licensure and University credits, which can be applied toward attainment of the master of education (M.Ed.) degree.

This program will be the latest innovative solution from CEHD, pioneers in developing research-based teacher preparation models for the past 100+ years.

"Under our land-grant mission, the U of M has an obligation to explore how to best prepare teachers in many different ways for today’s classrooms," Quam said. "We have been at the forefront of developing and evaluating innovative models for teacher preparation for more than a century, including our comprehensive, M.Ed. initial licensure programs, which are held up as some of the most effective programs in the country."

"We believe that college students who want to be teachers are best prepared for and supported in their development as teachers through CEHD’s multiple comprehensive programs," said Deborah Dillon, CEHD associate dean who oversees the college teacher preparation programs. "However, we recognize that individuals with bachelor’s degrees who want to work with P-12 learners have the right to alternative options like TFA under state law. So we intend to provide TFA corps members with an effective preparation program that is influenced by research in teacher development, focused on supporting P-12 students’ learning, and grounded in principles of equity and cultural responsiveness."

TFA approached the U of M early in 2013 to explore developing a program under the 2011 law that created alternative pathways for teacher licensure in Minnesota. After several months of discussion with the U community, education leaders and other stakeholders in Minnesota—as well as with other universities that have established similar programs with TFA, including the University of Michigan and University of Washington—CEHD agreed to develop a new teacher preparation program with TFA.

Discussions will now begin to design a program that will hold rigorous expectations for TFA corps members’ development and performance as teachers, while simultaneously providing professional support for them as they begin their teaching careers.

"Developing this program requires thinking expansively about the education and professional development that will most benefit new teachers and P-12 students in our state," said Crystal Brakke, executive director of TFA-Twin Cities. "TFA sees tremendous potential in working with the U of M to develop a new alternative preparation program under the legislation passed two years ago."

TFA program participants will pay a fee to the University that is not yet set. The generated revenues will be invested in research that allows CEHD to study how to most effectively educate teachers in alternative preparation models.

TFA, a nonprofit organization established in 1990, recruits high-achieving college graduates and professionals to teach in some of the most challenging educational settings. Selection of applicants is highly competitive: 14 percent are accepted into TFA programs nationwide. Corps members are required to make a minimum two-year teaching commitment. TFA-Twin Cities was established in 2009, and since then 220 of its corps members have been hired by 100 Minnesota schools, including Minneapolis Public Schools.

Quam, Dillon and Brakke will be available for interviews beginning at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 18. To schedule a time, please contact Steve Baker or Steve Henneberry.

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