Teacher Preparation

Education Researcher Moves Into Certification Business

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 08, 2013 2 min read

For decades, C. Emily Feistritzer has been one of the nation’s foremost analysts of alternative certification programs for training teachers. Now she’s taken what might be called the final plunge: crafting one of her own.

“Having spent 30 years reporting on what everyone was doing in the teacher-preparation and -certification space, I just concluded that nobody was really focusing on tomorrow’s learning world,” Ms. Feistritzer said. “There is too much controversy, too much lack of continuity, too much duplication of effort. If you could step outside of it and create an ideal program, what would it look like?”

Her answer, Teach-Now, recently opened its doors as a fully online teacher-certification program. It is currently approved in the District of Columbia, with negotiations ongoing to bring it to states around the country.

Funded partially through a $250,000 grant from the New Schools Venture Fund, an Oakland, Calif.-based group that invests in emerging innovations, from technologies to charter-management organizations, Teach-Now dispenses with traditional unit-based courses. Instead, candidates complete eight units ranging from assessment to student learning in a digital era, plus engage in ongoing fieldwork and student teaching.

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The fully interactive, custom-built platform is based on two principles in the teacher education literature, Ms. Feistritzer said: Teachers in training benefit from working with each other, and they benefit from lots of hands-on practice. So the platform uses the “flip” model popularized by the Khan Academy, an online education resource, in which readings and new techniques are introduced at home, while class time is spent practicing and honing them.

An “e-portfolio” tracks each Teach-Now candidate’s scores on the activities that make up each of eight units of study to give candidates real-time feedback. Instructors must have taught for at least three years and received leadership roles or recognition for their work. Each supervises a cohort of no more than 12 candidates.

Ms. Feistritzer has attracted well-known figures in the teacher-preparation world to the initiative. Among her hires is Donna Gollnick, a 25-year veteran of one of the national accreditation bodies for education colleges.

“I think the better online programs are really using the technology more effectively,” Ms. Gollnick said. “Students do a lot of the work they would have formerly done in the classroom on their own, and the class becomes more of a coaching method of helping them understand what they’ve read, seen in a video, or observed in a school.”

Ms. Gollnick will help smooth state approval of the program and partnerships with universities interested in integrating it. Already, the Stockton, Calif.-based University of the Pacific has inked a deal to use Teach-Now as part of a new master’s degree program aimed at career-changers.

The program is not intended to be a competitor for other alternative routes, according to Ms. Feistritzer.

“I created it to be used by providers in the teacher education space,” she said.

Teach-Now’s inaugural class began in March and will complete the program in December.

Coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession is supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, at www.joycefdn.org/Programs/Education. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

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