Teacher Education

Charter Organizations Developing Their Own Teacher Education Programs

A new report from a research organization focused on disruptive innovations has examined how charter management organizations (CMOs) have created their own teacher education and certification programs to help create the kinds of teachers they want to hire for their schools. Their reasoning: "Teachers who graduate from most traditional teacher education programs lack the skills needed to teach successfully."

The largest common obstacle faced by the CMOs appears to be navigation of state policy and accreditation requirements.

For example, at High Tech High in San Diego, Founder Larry Rosenstock wanted to hire nontraditional teachers from industry to teach his school's project-based curriculum. But California's education code required the teachers to either complete a traditional education program or earn their credentials through a college- or university-based alternative program that they could complete while teaching. Yet none of the options aligned with the school's educational philosophies. So Rosenstock followed a third route: a district intern program run by High Tech High. But even that faced additional barriers: Staff with credentials had to sign on to help train the new teachers; the school had to create processes and systems for administering the program; and the school's education leaders had to recraft its unique language to make it fit into "the language and framing" of the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). The CTC actually rejected the program application "multiple times" before it was finally approved. Eventually, the organization also created a separate graduate school of education for experienced educators.

Comparable difficulties (and successes) surfaced for two other charter organizations profiled in the report, the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York, and Match Education's Sposato Graduate School of Education in Boston. The research in "Startup Teacher Education: A Fresh Take on Teacher Credentialing" was undertaken by The Clayton Christensen Institute.

As author Thomas Arnett, a research fellow for the Institute, noted, "There's a clear need for policies that embrace new ways of producing high-quality teachers. If these programs continue to show strong results, it may be a sign that training in the education field — like many other industries — is shifting from a purely academic path to one that aligns more tightly with employers' needs."

Among the recommendations offered by CMO leaders are these:

  • Understand how "homegrown credentialing" will help the charter organization and be clear about whether the benefits will outweigh the costs and challenges of setting up and maintaining the program;
  • On the master's degree program side, "manage expectations" related to the launch timeline. "Remember that you will need to explain and justify something new and different to regulators who are essentially charged with ensuring adherence to conventional and traditional approaches," the report stated; and
  • Reach out to other higher education "stakeholders" to gain support among regulators and help educate people about the aims and benefits of the new program.

The full study can be found on the Christensen Institute Web site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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