Region 18 Education Service Center has revamped its alternative certification program in collaboration with The New Teacher Project, a national organization.

The first information session on the program, which starts this summer, is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Region 18, 2811 La Force Blvd., in Midland. Applications will be accepted throughout the spring, but the first deadline is April 2 and training begins with orientation May 19, Coordinator of Certification Services Cindy Fouts said.

The New Teacher Project, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., was selected for a $15 million Supporting Effective Educator Development Grant Program from the U.S. Department of Education. The funds will be used in Odessa-Midland, New York and Las Vegas, Fouts said.

“This is basically the launch of a new program called TEACH 18. It’s a culmination of our three decades of experience, along with the latest national best practices in preparing great teachers,” Fouts said.

The program is still for people with bachelor’s degrees who might have gone into different fields, but want to become educators. With some of the SEED grant funds, scholarships will be available that can be applied directly to the cost of the program. The total cost is $5,800, but the scholarships will cover $1,100 of the summer component, including the five weeks of classroom training, Fouts said.

Martinez said the scholarships will be available to all applicants.

Fouts said candidates undergo a preliminary background check to be accepted into the program. Once they are in the process of getting a teaching position, she said, they also go through fingerprinting with the Texas Education Agency and have to be cleared for that before they can be placed on any type of certificate.

One of the key differences between this program and its previous incarnation is that teacher candidates will spend several weeks in classrooms with West Texas students in a summer school arrangement, Fouts said.

“Instead of just getting the training, now they’re going to actually be working with students during the summer so they’re more classroom ready on day one when school starts,” Fouts said.

Prospective teachers will be in the classroom with an experienced teacher and receiving coaching from the Region 18 staff.

“We’ll have summer school sessions in the morning where they’re actively teaching and working, and in the afternoon is more skill building and working on what they’re going to practice the next morning,” Fouts said.

“It’s a redesign and collaboration that gives a little bit more resources and more focus on these best practices in recruiting and training teachers,” Fouts added.

Juan Pablo Martinez, site manager for TNTP, said the goal is 100 teachers, but they would love to get 1,000 if possible.

Fouts said teachers are needed all over the region.

Ector County Independent School District Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said Monday that the district is short 110 teachers.

“We work mostly with school districts directly. I think this is the first of the Texas regions that we’ve worked with an ESC (education service center). Sometimes school districts get together and say let’s have a recruitment strategy together,” Martinez said.

He said the work is fairly similar across districts, it’s important to take the local perspective into account because the local people know what works.

“We try to make sure we identify best practices that happen across different places and we spend quite a bit of our time saying, ‘How about this? We’ve seen this work in this state. We’ve seen this work in this district. How would that play out here?’” Martinez said.

He added that The New Teacher Project wants to make sure they’re not saying they know how things should work.

“Half the time there’s a reason things have been done a certain way,” Martinez said. “Region 18 has been certifying teachers for 30 years.”

He said TNTP has been working with Fouts and her team on the selection process for the certification program, which is why he was in town Monday.

Martinez said there would be no drastic changes to the selection process. He added that they will try to make sure that they are strategic about the type of questions and the number of questions asked.

“You can spend an hour or two hours having an interview with somebody, but we’re really trying get at the core of what are people’s interests. What are people’s beliefs and mindsets about student achievement, for example,” Martinez said.

Another difference in this program and the Region 18 alternative certification program is that there will be a single start date every year.

Fouts said they may lose a few potential candidates with the uniform start date at the beginning, but she thinks it will strengthen the pool of teachers.

“In addition to the strong cohort, everyone would have had time in front of the students before they go to the classrooms, which was not happening in the past. …,” Martinez said.

Fouts said Region 18 has a partnership with Midland College to provide housing to out-of-area students who need a place to stay.

“If they come for summer training, they’ve opened up the dorms, and of course, there’s a fee that’s payable to them. It’s pretty reasonable in comparison to trying to stay in this area,” she said.

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