Imagine you have been just recently hired by Dallas ISD and have never taught one day in your life. You were hired into their Alternative Certification Program. A school has made you an offer of employment. Ready, Set, Teach!
Yes, that is the exact scenario that is a reality for many newly minted DISD teachers. Particularly those that have taken the alternative route to teacher certification. These individuals are usually career changers and have decided to give teaching a try.
Unfortunately, these alternative certification teachers often end up doing just that, trying, and not succeeding in DISD. Teaching in general is daunting but with only about 10 weeks of training the “real” classroom can be a maze and overwhelming.
The Dallas ISD Alternative Certification program should design and implement a co-teaching fellows program. The practice of co-teaching is gaining ground nationally in other school districts as well as charter and private schools. Schools are also witnessing veteran teachers experiencing a sense of renewal of such collaborations. So DISD what do you have to lose?
Newly hired DISD alternative certification teachers spend one summer in training where they learn instructional strategies, curriculum design, and classroom management techniques. Then they are released to to be the teacher of record for a group of often undisciplined students that are not performing academically at grade level or are just barely and are expected to do their jobs well.
Well, instead of training for just one summer with only other adults, besides the few field observations of summer school students (who are generally on their best behavior because they need a credit) that AC teachers are privy to, the program should begin when the school year starts. AC teachers should be paired with highly qualified and cherry picked veteran teachers and be introduced into teaching the first day of school.
The AC teachers would be immersed into a two year program where the first year they are essentially co-designing curriculum with their lead mentor teacher, alternate delivering instruction with their lead mentor teacher, and researching instructional strategies that will benefit the lead teacher as well. They would be the lead teacher’s invaluable resource to topics and issues that arise everyday from teaching and how to identify solutions collaboratively.
The AC teachers their first year will also be called to go into the communities of their assigned schools and provide additional support to after-school programs at the schools themselves as well as community centers, museums, and other cultural institutions on weeknights and weekends.
The second year the AC teachers will be given the opportunity (if they feel confident and ready) to be the teacher of record of their own set of students. While also receiving guidance with evaluations and designated time through-out the week for counseling and additional training between the AC teacher and the lead mentor teacher.
Now, one may wonder about the economics of such a proposal. It is simple, instead of the average starting pay of $46K of first year teachers across the board (whether they are fully certified from an undergraduate program or alternative certification teacher) give first year AC teachers a slightly reduced salary of say $42K and give the remaining usual starting salary difference ($4K) to their lead mentor teacher as an incentive. Then the next year increase the second year AC teacher’s salary to $44K and give their lead mentor teacher the additional $2K.
SO LIKE THIS:
First Year AC Teacher Salary $42K + Lead Mentor Teacher $4K = $46K
Second Year AC Teacher Salary $44K + Lead Mentor Teacher $2K = $46K
Teaching is a field that requires great preparation and training. Our educational system needs teachers to STAY teachers. There is an influx of people “trying out” teaching for a year or two and it is getting us nowhere in the end. The students suffer. These quick 1-2-3 teacher certification programs are not fostering the corp of dedicated teachers that make teaching their profession to the numbers that our students in this country need. DISD can look to successful programs such as the, Citizen Schools Fellowship Program, as an example. DISD has endured budget shortfalls and on-going inner and external conflict regarding its management. Teachers are often the scapegoats for poor performance on benchmarks and assessments. So, the district has identified who they perceive to be the problem, now it is time to correct the problem and implement some innovation and totally produce a paradigm shift in how they recruit, train, and develop professionals to the wonderful and rewarding world of teaching!