Education

A proposal for charter schools in higher education

Colorado recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the state’s Charter Schools Act. Charter schools have brought innovation, competition, and choice to Colorado K-12 education. The charter school law opened the door for high-performing options like the Denver School of Science and Technology, Peak-to-Peak Charter School, and Liberty Common Charter School.

However, competition for K-12 schools is just one-step towards education reform. The concept of charter schools should be introduced to schools of education at the higher education level.

Currently, prospective Colorado educators can select among 21 approved educator preparation programs at different universities. These programs offer degrees and certifications ranging from administration, counseling, elementary education, and foreign language education. Paving the path for charter Schools of Education would enable educational entrepreneurs to establish their own academies to prepare prospective administrators, teachers, and counselors. The charter schools of education would provide innovation in preparing educators for the unique challenges of different schools with increased autonomy and flexibility.

Choice is already a part of teacher training in Colorado. Programs like Teach for America, the Denver Teacher Residency, and New Teachers Project allow holders of a bachelor’s degree to become licensed educators without participating in a traditional School of Education licensure program. Under Senate Bill 99-154, Colorado lawmakers allow school districts to fill any teacher shortages they have via residency programs. For the purpose of the law, teachers can teach as residents for two years under the supervision of a mentor teacher while completing the basic requirements for a Colorado provisional teaching licensure. Often, resident teachers complete their coursework at participating universities that have designed coursework specifically for teacher residents. After two years of teaching, the teacher could continue teaching at the school with a provisional license.

Introducing the concept of charter schools to educator preparation would allow for the development of schools of education to cater towards specific student populations. Personal experience teaches an educator that the skills needed to survive in one school are not always conducive for teaching in the next school.

Educators who decide to teach in international schools need flexibility to blend in with another culture and, in many cases, learn how to be a diplomat for America. Little knowledge of classroom management is needed to thrive. By contrast, in many urban schools, educators are not just instructors, but also counselors, mentors, and sometimes even surrogate parents. They must understand child development, diverse cultures, and poverty, in addition to their content to help their students. Still, other schools with rigorous or specialized curricula require excellent command of content knowledge.

Currently, many traditional schools of education require coursework that holds little relevance to successful teaching, such as the foundations of social justice and critical race theory. Instead, aspiring educators would benefit more from learning practical skills that will help them command a classroom. They need to learn a wide range of reading instruction strategies and differentiation in order to reach all learners. They need to learn how to identify whether or not a child has special needs. They need to know how to safely break up fights in the classroom, because trust me, they will happen. They do not need to learn about critical race theory.

The Sposato Graduate School of Education’s Match Teacher Residency is an example of an effective alternative teacher education program. The Match Teacher Residency’s objective is to prepare extraordinary rookie teachers. Instead of focusing on theoretical classes, Match teacher residents receive an intensive mixture of practice, courses, and one-on-one coaching over a period of two years. Coursework includes classroom management, developing relationships with students, and math and reading methods.

Chartering Schools of Education promotes competition. The quality of educators serving our students would improve. The Schools of Education that produce the teachers with the strongest skills will thrive. Aspiring educators will continue to attend the high-performing schools. Meanwhile, the schools that fail to consistently produce talented educators will collapse.

Colorado’s students deserve better. Passing a charter school law was the initial step. The next step is to ensure each student has a highly skilled educator devoted towards their specific needs. Chartering schools of education will help this dream become a reality.

Previously a Fulbright English Teaching Fellow in Taiwan, Kyle Morin is a Master’s in Public Administration candidate at the University of Colorado Denver and math fellow at Denver’s Gilpin Montessori School. This op-ed originally appeared in Ed News Colorado.

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