New Online Teacher Certification Program Plans for Rapid Expansion

ByMike V. Cooper

Sep 2, 2015

Guest post by Ross Brenneman

A relatively new online teacher certification program is planning rapid expansion after meeting initial success, according to its leaders.

The new school of education TEACH-NOW Educatore (taking the go-big-or-go-home approach to capitalization) was founded in 2011 by Emily Feistritzer, a longtime analyst of alternative certification programs. TEACH-NOW is a traditional certification program, however, it takes at least nine months to complete, leading to certification. The first course started in March 2013.

As the school has started or completed training more than 600 teacher candidates, it announced this week ambitious plans to train 10,000 new teachers over the next five years and establish a master’s program. To help with the expansion, TEACH-NOW has hired Philip A. Schmidt, former dean of the teacher education program at Western Governors University, a leading online nonprofit school. At WGU, Schmidt has helped oversee similar scaling for the past 14 years.

“It is true that we are in the first years of this school of education [TEACH-NOW], but everything I see and hear tells me the jury is out,” Schmidt said in an interview. “This educational approach is the real thing.”

This approach involves a cohort- and activity-based model that focuses on group work and early exposure to the classroom, starting in week three of the program, Feistritzer said. Emphasis is also placed on applicants who understand multiple forms of education technology.

TEACH-NOW expansion may reflect feelings of blood in the water around established teacher preparation programs, which have come under fire for poor performance and poor federal government oversight and at the state level.

“I dream big and I don’t believe in failure,” Feistritzer said. “I decided that if I was going to live to see teachers prepared like many of us – including teacher training colleges – know they need to be prepared for, then someone really had to get back to the plank. to drawing.”

The logistical impact of scaling TEACH-NOW, however, may take some time to assess.

First, the school prides itself on its ratio of approximately 20 students per instructor to 1, but Feistritzer and Schmidt acknowledged that they are still developing plans on how to handle what will eventually be hundreds ( even thousands) of instructors.

“What’s always been difficult to maintain at WGU, whenever we’ve had periods of rapid growth, was…that sense of intimacy that’s always desirable in professional training,” Schmidt said, adding TEACH-NOW is focusing more on addressing this problem.

Second, there is the issue of candidate diversity, where TEACH-NOW excels. Currently, just over half of U.S. TEACH-NOW applicants are white, according to data provided by the school. By comparison, today’s faculty is about 82% white, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. TEACH-NOW applicants are also only around 60% women, while the teaching profession is more than three quarters women. Whether TEACH-NOW’s diversity will be maintained as it expands (and whether these candidates will enter schools) is another question.

Third: The most experienced TEACH-NOW graduates have not yet acquired even two years of full-time teaching experience. Feistritzer said feedback from those teachers’ supervisors has been positive. Although how they compare to teachers from other programs – especially in terms of retention and performance – will also require further research.

While the US Department of Education theoretically tracks information about how teacher education programs work, as my colleague Stephen Sawchuk has pointed out (repeatedly), such data is generally lacking..

Image: Emily Feistritzer and Philip A. Schmidt. Credit: TEACH-NOW


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