Teacher Preparation

Report Touts Community Colleges As Source of Teachers

By Julie Blair — October 30, 2002 3 min read
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The nation’s 1,100 community colleges have the potential to provide more than 25 percent of the teachers needed to staff classrooms over the next decade, but to date remain an overlooked resource, a report released last week contends.

Information on the report, “Tapping Potential: Community Colleges and America’s Teacher Recruitment Challenge,” is available from the National Teacher Recruitment Clearinghouse. To order the entire 48-page report for $24.95, or the Executive Summary for $9.95, call RNT at 617-489-6000 or email rnt@rnt.org.

Such institutions are already a significant pipeline, helping to train more than one in five educators, according to the study by Recruiting New Teachers, a nonprofit organization based in Belmont, Mass. Moreover, it says, community colleges produce highly qualified, desperately needed minority candidates who volunteer to work in the country’s most challenging schools.

“Strengthening and expanding teacher education programs on community college campuses not only offer the best hope we have to overcome the teacher shortage in this country, it is a powerful solution to improving teacher quality at the same time,” Mildred Hudson, the organization’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The report profiles six model programs in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, New York state, Pennsylvania, and Texas and provides results from a poll of officials in all 50 states about the issue.

One hundred community colleges have teacher-preparation programs, and 20 states have policies supporting teacher training at such colleges, said Jacqueline Jordan Irvine, the lead researcher for the study and an education professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

Experts embraced the report’s findings, but cautioned that teacher initiatives by community colleges must be properly financed.

“I would suggest this is a solid option” to help alleviate teacher shortages, said Kathe Rasch, the chairwoman of the board of directors of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. The Washington-based group represents some 735 institutions.

Ms. Rasch, who is also the dean of the school of education at Maryville University of St. Louis, said she worries, however, that community colleges may not have the resources necessary to run such programs or the leverage to obtain the needed aid.

Meeting a Need

Community colleges began offering teacher-preparation programs in the 1980s, following requests from school districts interested in establishing new pools of educators, Ms. Irvine said.

Such institutions appeared to offer an opportunity, as they enroll 10 million people annually and educate a diverse population, the study says. Half of all African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students now attending college do so at community colleges.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 2.4 million teachers will be needed over the eight years to meet rising enrollments and make up for increasing teacher retirements.

The community college programs are designed to replace the first two years of work done at four-year institutions, the report says. While they differ significantly in content and requirements, most offer pedagogy classes and experiential learning in conjunction with courses in the liberal arts. Following the completion of those program, students are expected to attend four- year institutions.

Research by Recruiting New Teachers shows that the quality of prospective teachers who graduate from four-year schools after attending community colleges is good, the report says. In fact, teachers who participate in them are better prepared and perform better than their classmates who began at four-year colleges, the study maintains.

Such teacher- candidates may be a better investment than traditionally trained educators, the report says, because they take jobs that are considered less desirable by their colleagues and stay in them longer. Many live in the urban communities in which they teach and have a better understanding of their students’ cultures and languages than do their peers. They are likewise older and able to more effectively manage discipline, the authors add.

There are challenges in working with such students, however.

Those enrolled are often balancing families, jobs, and schooling and need more intensive support than traditional students require, said Joan Gosnell, the dean of academic affairs at Miami- Dade Community College in Florida, which produces 600 prospective teachers annually and is profiled in the report.

Many students do not immediately finish their bachelor’s degrees, she said, and thus do not enter the workforce as quickly as their counterparts who attend four-year colleges or they may fail to complete their studies.

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