12:00 AM

$6.8 million project to help ensure high-quality alternate teacher licensure in 4 states

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The number of ways a prospective teacher enters a classroom has increased as states allow school districts, charter schools and other educational organizations to offer alternative licensure.

A $6.8 million federal grant to The Ohio State University will help ensure that non-traditional teacher training programs, designed to rapidly increase the number of qualified teachers, are themselves of high quality.

The College of Education and Human Ecology, School of Educational Policy and Leadership, is leading the Project KNOTtT consortium of colleges, universities, and school districts, non-profit foundations and associations in Kansas, Nevada, Ohio and Texas. KNOTtT is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Transition to Teaching program to recruit, train, and retain nontraditional teachers, as well as to expand nontraditional pathways to teaching in high-need and hard to staff school systems.

In urban and rural districts with high percentages of poverty, teacher shortages are common. Administrators may be forced to hire college graduates who have academic knowledge in their fields, such as mathematics or language arts, but do not have training in how to teach. In response, lawmakers in many states have turned to alternative licensure.

For recent college graduates, workers changing careers and paraprofessionals, alternative licensure provides an accelerated pathway than traditional bachelor or master's degree programs, said Belinda Gimbert, assistant professor of educational policy and leadership, who directs the five-year Project KNOTtT.

Project KNOTtT's goal is to make sure these non-traditional pathways fully support the development of talented applicants so they meet their state's certification requirements.

"The program evaluation piece is missing," Gimbert said. "We need quality indicators that gauge both the process and outcomes of nontraditional teacher preparation programs. That becomes the quality measure to assure impact on student achievement, as well as beginning teacher instructional delivery. These benchmarks will offer nontraditional pathways an assessment tool for improving their programs, as well as for accountability."

The KNOTtT consortium will recruit, prepare, support and retain 545 teachers in mathematics, science, English and language arts, foreign languages, English as a second language, and special education.

Previously, the college's Center on Employment and Training for Education (CETE) administered the Ohio Transition to Training project, which prepared more than 200 elementary and secondary teachers for high-need school districts.

"Preliminary data from a pilot study conducted this year show little difference in performance on the test required for licensure in Ohio between traditionally trained teachers and those who participated in the CETE program. And both groups performed better than participants in other alternative licensure programs," Gimbert said.

Project KNOTtT will build on the earlier Web-based program, which gave participants on-line modules to prepare them for the PRAXIS II Principles of Learning and Teaching 7-12 exam, a standardized test used by many states to gauge new teachers' classroom knowledge and skills. There also were opportunities for the future teachers to experience face-to-face and electronic-mentoring, collaborate with each other, and to find resources for creating teaching and learning materials.

"We learned a lot in the past five years about how to put together an online learning system that supports applicants," said Maria Moore, who managed the Ohio Transition to Teaching Project. In addition, Project KNOTtT will offer mentoring.

Most importantly, the project has the potential to improve alternative teacher preparation nationwide. The collaborators in Kansas, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas will develop strategic quality indicators, or markers that indicate effective teacher training strategies. Gimbert and Moore said the indicators could support state policy for nontraditional teacher preparation programs.

The K-12 partners in Project KNOTtT are a consortium of 10 rural school districts in Southeastern Ohio and five community schools in Dayton sponsored by The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Dayton City Schools and Trotwood Madison Public Schools and community schools; two local education agencies (LEA) in Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; and two large urban school systems: one in Clark County, Nevada, and one in Dallas, Texas.

The higher education institutions in Ohio are Ohio State, Ohio University and Wright State University. Additional partners are Wichita State University in Kansas, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the Association of Teacher Educators, National Association for Alternative Certification, and Omnipath Inc, Dublin.

College contact: Janet Ciccone, 614-292-5338 or Ciccone.2@osu.edu