Multiple Pathways to Teacher Education and Licensure


The University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development is focused on improving the lives of children, families, and communities by forging research-driven solutions to complex problems. These solutions come from our brightest minds and from decades of real-world experience across eight departments and 25 research centers and institutes. Deborah Dillon, Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Programs, and Jennifer McComas, Professor of Special Education and Rodney S. Wallace Professor for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, bring us this post.

There’s a lot of debate surrounding education in America. From testing to tenure, there is a wide spectrum of views on how best to improve our school system. It often seems that consensus is hard to find. However, there’s one thing people across the spectrum believe: we need to develop good teachers in many different ways. Creating innovative, multiple pathways to licensure is important.

The University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development’s core mission is educating our next generation of teachers. We are constantly researching new teaching techniques and developing new and flexible curriculum to help students and teachers achieve at a higher level. We want to create multiple pathways to licensure for a new, more diverse generation of aspiring teachers. Ultimately, nothing is more important to increasing the quality of our schools than attracting and retaining excellent teachers. However, because of financial, family and other barriers, not every potential teacher can enter a traditional, full-time college program. At CEHD, one of our goals is to make teaching careers more accessible to diverse candidates and to prepare them to meet the high standards set by our college and the state of Minnesota.

Multiple Pathways to Teacher Licensure Attract New Education Talent

As it turns out, we don’t have to look far to find people with the talent and drive to be teachers; they are already working in our schools as paraprofessionals, Educator Support Professionals (ESPs), reserve teachers or other unlicensed employees who have not been able to stop working in order to become a licensed teacher. Thanks to two new state-approved programs we’ve created with our partners the Bush Foundation, Minneapolis Public Schools, Northeast Metro 916 School District, Urban Teacher Residency United, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals Local 59, CEHD will be giving over 50 school-based professionals the opportunity to become fully licensed teachers in less than two years.

The programs have been designed in partnership between CEHD and the school districts and, for the Minneapolis Residency Program, the Minnesota Federation of Teachers and ESPs Local 59, to offer comprehensive, hands-on instructional programs that balance intensive coursework with extensive classroom co-teaching residencies. Right now, we have two cohorts of program participants who, if all goes well, will be eligible to apply for their teaching licenses and apply for positions in the fall of 2016. We’re incredibly proud of our teacher candidates and the work we’ve done with our partners to create programs that meet the needs of students, prospective teachers and school districts.

Thanks to generous funding from the Bentson Foundation, we’ve been able to remove many of the economic barriers for our teacher candidate cohorts entering these multiple pathway programs. In addition, both program cohorts received reduced program fees from the University of Minnesota.

The Minneapolis Public Schools provide MRP program participants a payment of over $24,000 and benefits during the residency program. At the end of program, the MRP resident is guaranteed a position in Minneapolis Public Schools. For their part, the residents have a three-year obligation to work within the district.

Pathway 1: Residency Program Empowers A Diverse Teaching Corps

The Minneapolis Residency Program, (MRP) which we’re conducting in concert with Minneapolis Public Schools, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the Education Support Professionals Local 59, is a non-conventional elementary education program designed to create a pipeline to licensure that will diversify the teaching corps in a way that is responsive to program participants’ needs, as well as those in the community and district. Our first cohort was recruited from staffers with a bachelor’s degree who were already working within the district.

MRP teacher candidates (called residents) complete a year-and-a-half program that balances specially designed course modules and in-class teaching experience. It starts with an intensive summer course session, followed by a full school year of co-teaching with a practicing teacher in the district, followed by a second summer of coursework. During the school year, one day a week is outside the classroom, devoted to coursework on site in the district.

Pathway 2: Intensive Teacher Education for Emotional Behavior Disorders

Our second program is located primarily in the Northeast Metro School District 916. This is a more specialized program, created for paraprofessionals who want to instruct students with emotional behavior disorders (EBD). It’s an important, and growing, area of special education — one in which many districts struggle to find adequate numbers of qualified teachers.

The shortages in this field are well known and, as a result, recent teaching graduates searching for full-time work often apply for positions in EBD. However, as a highly specialized and challenging branch of teaching, many find that it’s simply not something they can make into a career. Low retention rates in EBD make the teacher shortages even more acute.

Our EBD program attracts working paraprofessionals who want to become fully licensed teachers and — most importantly — have hands-on classroom experience with EBD students. These paraprofessionals have been selected as having excellent skills by their teacher partners and peers and have a firm grasp on what it takes to be an EBD teacher. We’re truly excited to be able to give them a chance to pursue their teaching careers while providing District 916 and our other partner districts with a pipeline of dedicated EBD experts.

Its structure is different than the Minneapolis Residency Program yet has some elements in common. The program is delivered across four semesters (no summers), and emphasizes in-class experience and on-site mentoring (similar to the MRP). Our program participants are employed paraprofessionals who work with teachers and students in classrooms in NE Metro District 916, Minneapolis Public Schools, Districts 917 and 622, and Mounds View. CEHD instructors observe program participants in their classroom at least once a week, coaching, providing feedback and setting individualized professional development goals. The teacher candidates attend traditional classes one night a week, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. each semester — a format the cohort told us works best for them.

Teacher candidates in both the MRP and EBD programs have raved about the experience within their respective programs. For many, it’s a chance to pursue their dream of being licensed teachers, one that couldn’t have happened without the financial support and flexibility provided by the program. Our first Minneapolis Residency Program class of 25 will graduate in Spring 2016, ready to teach in elementary classrooms in Fall 2016. Our first class of 23 teacher candidates in the EBD program will complete student teaching in Spring 2016, and be prepared for teaching in EBD classrooms fall of 2016. We believe these new pathways to teaching have a great deal of potential to open up the teaching profession for a talented and diverse workforce with a passion for education.

The Benefits of Residency-Based Teaching Education Programs

Based on the feedback we’re receiving from our cohorts and participating teachers, we believe that these innovative programs can be a model for other universities and their school district partners that want to create new pathways to licensure for teachers. Here are a few of the benefits that these programs provide:

Providing opportunity. If there’s one thing that we continue to hear from the cohorts, it’s gratitude for the opportunity to pursue teacher licensure in a format that meets the participants’ needs. For working adults with families and other responsibilities, leaving full-time work to enter a traditional college program is simply not an option. We’ve created our residency-based teacher education programs to be modular and customized, allowing us to fit them to the lifestyle and needs of our program participants.

Promoting diversity. Both Minneapolis Public Schools and Northeast Metro District 916 have the goal of growing their own talent with highly qualified persons within their districts while also creating a more diverse teaching corps. We believe these programs can empower a wide range of prospective teaching candidates to become fully licensed teachers. Our Minneapolis Residency Program cohort is incredibly diverse, consisting of more than 77% persons of color and ranging in age from individuals in their 20s all the way to people in their 60s.

Recruiting talented individuals with experience. Every teacher needs a deep knowledge of their subject matter, but a mastery of teaching pedagogy and handling the challenges of the classroom is equally important. Our programs recruit from a pool of paraprofessionals, reserve teachers or other unlicensed employees who are already working in our schools today and have a great knowledge of what it requires to take command of a classroom.

Giving teacher candidates hands-on mentoring. Our program offers intensive coursework, but it also places an emphasis on in-class experience. This allows us to do on-site, hands-on mentoring, giving our teaching cohort instant and specific feedback on their performance.

Our program participants are more likely to stay in teaching. Teachers who have been through residency programs — especially those who already have existing classroom experience — tend to stay in teaching longer than their peers. Our partners at the Urban Teacher Residency Program report that their retention rate is 85% after five years. That’s an impressive statistic, and we expect to see similar numbers from these residency programs.

Encouraging partnerships in teaching education. There are many organizations concerned with teaching education in America. Our residency programs would not be possible without support from the Bush Foundation, the Bentson Foundation, Minneapolis Public Schools, Northeast Metro 916, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, EFP Local 59 and Urban Teacher Residency Program. Out college is proud to be bringing together the public and private sectors to develop innovative teacher preparation programs to best meet the needs of children.


Originally published at cehdvision2020.umn.edu on August 14, 2015.

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