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7 keys to choosing a preparation program

7 Keys to Choosing a Teacher Preparation Program

7 Keys to Choosing a Teacher Preparation Program

As the academic year winds down, the teaching profession and school districts are facing a number of daunting challenges. The pandemic led to the largest drop in  US school employment ever recorded. Even as the job market stabilizes, educator well-being is at an all-time low, and 30% of educators plan to leave the profession within three years

What’s more, the perception of teacher prestige is at an all-time low, dropping 47% in the last decade alone. Not surprisingly, the number of new teachers entering the classroom has declined by roughly 30% over that time. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently said that the “teacher shortage issue is a symptom of a teacher respect issue, really.”

We at iteach believe that great teachers profoundly impact their students’ lives and deserve the deepest respect from districts, parents, and society at large. Our role in combating the negative public perception of teachers is to do everything in our power to deliver our 1,500+ district and LEA partners a diverse group of educators who are ready to teach, feel empowered to excel in the classroom, and stay in the profession. Many of these people have succeeded in specialized careers but want the personal joy that comes from teaching. They may also be existing school district employees who have a bachelor’s degree and need a more accessible pathway to get accreditation. We are proud to have provided education and guidance to more than 20,000 fully certified teachers, who have proven a high level of effectiveness in the classroom. 

Restoring trust and respect in the teaching profession means holding teacher training programs like ours to a high standard. States and districts have turned to unconventional strategies, including allowing individuals with no training into the classroom. These types of stopgap solutions to teacher shortages around the country could have negative long-term impacts on student outcomes. While there is an urgent need for states to offer efficient, high-quality pathways into the education profession, there are proven, highly rated programs available that help teacher candidates receive the training they need to earn their certification and be successful in schools. 

Unfortunately, there are also bad actors in our industry, and the quality among teacher preparation programs varies widely. Teacher candidates have no protections to ensure the efficacy of the programs they enroll in. For example, if they start a program and the provider gets their certification service revoked, those teachers have no recourse.  

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that aspiring teachers can take to evaluate preparation programs: 

  1. Research: Facebook, Google, and Trustpilot, can be helpful, and looking up if the program is in good standing with your state Department of Education’s database can help you choose among programs. 
  2. Accreditation: Learn about which programs have third-party accreditation. For example, iteach is the only program not based in an institution of higher learning to earn accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  3. Quality over speed: As you read news articles and reviews, be suspicious of programs that tout themselves as “easy” or emphasize how quickly you can finish. Instead, look for a program that emphasizes teacher quality, preferably one that is run by accredited teachers. 
  4. Getting credit: It may seem self-evident, but it is extremely important to make sure the program you choose is accepted in the state you live in. Also, If you’re interested in pursuing a master’s degree post-certification, confirm that the program you’re considering offers credit hours to a college.
  5. Coursework: Before beginning a program, ask yourself if the coursework truly looks applicable to the classroom. For example, iteach offers a course that orients every new teacher to what will happen during the first week of school. One of our graduates who won Teacher of the Year during her first year in the classroom said that this orientation “saved her life.” Also, look for content that goes beyond structured classes, such as the curated video collection from Teaching Channel that all iteach teachers have access to.
  6. Support: What sort of classroom support does the program offer? At iteach, every student who completes coursework has a classroom supervisor for their first year. Our student to classroom supervisor ratio is 11:1 (by contrast, a competitive teacher training program’s ratio is 63:1). Texas, one of the states we serve, requires three classroom visits per year, but our classroom supervisors make five visits per year. We believe all new teachers deserve this level of support.  
  7. Getting hired: You start a teacher accreditation program with the goal of getting a job as a teacher, so it makes sense to look for one that has strong relationships with the type of schools at which you’d like to teach. One more stat to consider from Texas: iteach’s placement rate is 87% statewide, which is 600% higher than our closest competitor, according to the TEA.

Of course, it comes down to a personal choice, but I believe that the best programs are the ones that ultimately want what is best for teacher development and students. Teaching should be a highly respected profession. Quality teacher training leads to students performing better, so it benefits everyone to hold those training teachers to a high standard. Everyone at iteach is committed to serving new teachers to the best of our ability for the sake of students and parents—and for the longevity of this great profession.

Andrew Rozell is the President of Certification at iteach and can be reached via LinkedIn.

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