Ft. Valley State University Launches Charter Teacher Prep Program
Atlanta — April 19, 2000
In a move aimed at enhancing the performance of its graduates on the Praxis II teaching certification exam, Ft. Valley State University has received approval from the Board of Regents to establish Charter Teacher Preparation Programs in Early Childhood Education and Middle Grades Education. The innovative response was fostered by a board policy passed in 1998 after a year-long study of the University System’s 15 teacher preparation programs. That policy document, titled “Principles and Actions for the Preparation of Educators for the Schools,” outlined a willingness by University System officials to consider proposals for charter teacher preparation programs. Such programs will be aimed at achieving specified and higher performance goals in return for, if needed, additional funding and release from certain existing System requirements.
Ft. Valley’s charter proposal was the first to be considered. The institution’s plan calls for replacing the university’s current Early Childhood Education and Middle Grades Education programs with charter programs that require student mastery of an absolute set of high standards. Students must perform to at least the proficient level in order to earn course credits. The standards will serve as the means for teaching, advising and assessing teacher candidates at the University. They also will make explicit what teacher candidates must know, be able to do, and accomplish in order to complete course requirements and to be recommended for teacher certification. The new charter programs at Ft. Valley will be implemented beginning with the freshmen class of Fall 2000. The pilot programs will be assessed after six years. As a key outcome, Ft. Valley and System officials have established a goal of increasing the performance of the institution’s first-time test takers on the PRAXIS II exam - which is required for teacher certification – from 40 percent to 75 percent.
“Even if we have to turn everything upside down to get there, absolute standards of performance must be met by our teacher candidates,” stated Dr. Jan Kettlewell, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs with the Board of Regents, who is responsible for oversight of the University System’s teacher preparation programs. “Ft. Valley’s innovative charter programs will be organized around these sets of absolute standards. Freshmen will be told: here’s the level you have to meet from where you are now. Our job, over the next four years, is to get you there; and we have developed extra goals and methods to better prepare you.”
Like other University System of Georgia institutions, Ft. Valley State has offered fairly traditional teacher preparation programs. FVSU faculty concluded that the institution’s traditional approach to preparing teachers was not effective, noting that last year only 40 percent of their students who aspired to become teachers passed the PRAXIS II exam. Mindful of that data, the faculty and administration concluded that they must restructure their programs to ensure that all teacher candidates could reach high absolute standards, even if it required providing additional time and assistance to reach the new higher standards that would be required for program completion. The programs are particularly innovative, because they do not have many existing models to replicate in higher education. The standards-based design has been tested with positive results in K-12 education, it has been tried much less extensively in academe. Therefore, the faculty has pledged to continue to refine the model. A two-tiered admissions system will be operated for the Charter Programs. Freshman will be admitted as pre-education majors. Admission to candidacy for teaching, which typically takes place in the junior year, will require students to have: achieved a level of 13 or higher on a reading examination (Nelson-Denney Reading Inventory); passed the Regents Test;; passed PRAXIS I (required for teacher certification), and met all standards established for the core curriculum to at least the proficient level, which will earn them an over-all GPA of 3.0.
For students who complete the Charter Programs, the following outcomes are expected:
- 75 percent pass rate of first-time test takers on PRAXIS II (three out of four students completing all courses in the program will meet certification requirements, up from two out of five);
- Ft. Valley will “guarantee” that its graduates exceed the outcomes of the teacher preparation principles.
- Will be proficient in bringing students from diverse groups to high levels of learning;
- Will have earned a grade of B or better in all core courses and courses in the major or concentrations to ensure that they have sufficient subject matter knowledge in all areas on their teaching certificates;
- Will be proficient in using telecommunication and information technologies as tools for learning;
- Will be proficient in managing a classroom effectively;
- (In early childhood programs) will be proficient in diagnosing difficulties in reading and mathematics and helping students show improvement; and
- Students will pass an over-all assessment conducted by a review board of faculty and public school teachers and administrators.
If successful, Ft. Valley and System officials hope to position the Charter Program pilot as a national model in the preparation of minority teachers, increasing their numbers as role models in K-12 schools. “We cannot serve the public schools effectively unless we prepare more and better minority teachers,” Dr. Kettlewell stated. “This initiative will do that, so that more minority teachers will be well prepared to help the next generation of students have a better shot at success.”