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Teacher prep programs showing promise - Odessa American: Education

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Teacher prep programs showing promise

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Posted: Friday, December 11, 2020 12:20 pm

University of Texas Permian Basin’s new certification program in early childhood prekindergarten through third grade education has one semester in the books.

Dean of the College of Education Larry Daniel said they have 11 to 12 students in that major.

“It’s our first semester this fall, so we’re expecting that program to continue to grow. I know we’ve had a lot of inquiries but I don’t have a precise figure. … We are expecting that program to continue to grow and having teachers certified, particularly with the early childhood area,” Daniel said during a Zoom Early Childhood Action Network meeting this week.

ECAN is a committee of the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin. The Education Partnership of the Permian Basin is a nonprofit organization focused on supporting and improving the quality of education throughout the Permian Basin from cradle to career, its website said.

“We’re also one semester into our launch of US PREP, which includes the full-year teacher residencies,” Daniel said. “A few of those students are actually finishing up now because when the we did the pilot some students already just had one semester left. School districts are still honoring the residency contracts if they wish to continue through the spring.”

US PREP was launched in 2015 with six university-school partners. In 2017, two new partners were added, spanning across Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas. It now will launch a second cohort of eight universities concentrated in New York, Texas, and California, targeting educator talent pipelines for some of the biggest school districts in the U.S., including the New York City public school system. Collectively, the coalition prepares over 5,000 teacher candidate completers each year.

Daniel expressed thanks to Ector County and Midland ISD for working with UTPB so effectively, arranging for the teacher residency and also the Opportunity Culture staffing model that they have adopted at the two districts.

“They have been able to offer salaries and benefits to our residents,” Daniel said. “The feedback we’re getting after this first semester about the quality of the experience and how well prepared our residents are is just phenomenal. We’re still gathering that, like I said, just one semester in.” Daniel added that the College of Education is currently writing an application for the UTeach program.

“… It’s been around for a couple of decades, based out of UT Austin. We were invited to apply to become a UTeach site. … We’re hoping we’ll get some that are interested in the lower grades. A lot of them are interested in high school, but we’re hoping we’ll get some that are interested in early childhood and elementary, as well. We’re getting our first group of students in the spring in just a few weeks,” Daniel said.

He added that UTPB’s partnership with Odessa College, OC2UTPB Teaching in 3 has about 60 students coming in. “It’s an accelerated program. They’ve completed their AA degree in a year and a half. They’ll complete their last two years with us in a year and a half. That’s the teaching in 3. So we’re hoping to get those folks out roughly a year and a half from now and have lots of folks prepared to go teach,” Daniel said.

Educate Midland and the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin have been selected as grantees of Advance Together, an initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas that provides funding from external sources and technical assistance to cross-sector partnerships working to improve education and workforce outcomes in their communities. The Dallas Fed does not fundraise and relies on an independent selection committee of statewide and national leaders to select the partnerships.

Becca Myers, data and development manager at Educate Midland, said the grant will continue to support initiatives of the ECAN and the POWER Bag initiative. Myers said they also have been talking about increasing quality standards for child care centers and another piece is connecting parents directly with resources.

The total amount of the grant is $300,000 and it will run for three years, Myers said.

Mike Mills, program director of Educate Texas, said one of the components they are working on is building a group to focus on diversity.

“We’re hearing from our parents and our students in diversity to begin to look at the effects of systemic racism and its impact on job opportunities in education,” Mills said. “That’s going to be a work that we want to do region wide. We’re starting conversations with key members of our community, kind of one on one. I want to encourage any of you who would like to have a voice and be part of that group, please let me know. We feel that’s going to be a critical piece. …”

Education Partnership Executive Director Adrian Vega said the Early Childhood Action Network is regional.

“… Not one of us, at least from my perspective, can do it by ourselves or do the heavy lifting. There is too much that needs to get done as a region. We will move forward if we’re working in concert with one another, so please if you have any questions we’re here to support each other,” Vega said.

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