Teach for America : Program to offer degree in teaching
The New York State Board of Regents unanimously voted April 20 to approve a pilot program allowing non-university institutions, such as Teach for America, to create their own master’s degrees programs in education.
‘In a sense, we’re trying to promote a revolution,’ said Saul Cohen, an at-large member of the Board of Regents.
Under the program, a student teacher will be granted a master’s degree in education from the Board of Regents after receiving on-the-job training through alternative educational groups like Teach for America. But officials in Teach for America and education schools said they are unsure of the program’s potential effectiveness. The program was created in response to increasing criticism about the under-preparedness and lack of practical training education schools provide to teachers.
Teach for America recruits college students to serve as teachers in low-performing schools throughout the country, and the New York City Teaching Fellows program recruits people from different professional backgrounds with no teaching education.
The point of the program is to ensure internships and classroom experiences are integral parts of new teacher training.
It will follow a medical model, in the sense that medical professionals need to undergo a residency period in a hospital to practice medicine, Cohen said. The hope is that this program will have teachers undergo the same experiential training in a classroom, he said.
‘I don’t know how I feel about it. I think you should have a formal education, actually,’ said Jen Britton, a freshman elementary and special education major.
The majority of the funding will come from the U.S. Department of Education’s ‘Race for the Top Fund.’
The fund is for ‘states that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms,’ according to the Department of Education website.
The major beneficiaries of this program stand to be non-university groups like Teach for America, New York City Teaching Fellows or institutions like museums. At Syracuse University last year, 33 students went into the Teach for America corps after graduation.
But some in higher education, like Gerald Mager, the associate dean of the School of Education, expressed their concerns about the proposal because it would grant a master’s purely from professional experience.
‘We can’t think that if we put them in the classroom they’ll learn on the spot,’ Mager said. ‘I think that is a very serious shortcoming of the proposal.’
At SU’s School of Education, education majors must accumulate more than 500 hours in a classroom as an undergraduate, Britton said. She said she thinks a master’s degree from a graduate school will not only help as a teacher but in other fields as well.
Mager said he was hesitant about the idea that students directly out of undergraduate education could be the main teacher in a classroom.
But Cohen said the teachers-in-training would still be held to high standards.
‘Any non-academic institution which applies for this kind of training has to apply to the same standards of any university,’ he said.
Mager also said he was unsure of the effects on the School of Education but said they would probably be minimal.
Kendra-Lee Rosati, a recruitment director for Teach for America, said it is still unclear how the Regents’ plan will affect Teach for America.
‘Unfortunately, this is a brand-new program and we just don’t know enough about it yet to speculate about what effect it will have,’ Rosati said in an e-mail.
Mager said ideas like this have been entertained throughout education circles for a long time. But Cohen emphasized that this recent announcement was the culmination of 42 years worth of effort.
‘The national consensus is that improving teaching is absolutely crucial,’ Cohen said. ‘Everything else has been tried and hasn’t worked.’
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