Texas Tech is Changing the Face of Teacher Preparation with TechTeach

World Teacher Day is October 5.

In the big picture of preparing for a lifelong career, six weeks or a semester of on-the-job training doesn’t sound like much. And for most K-12 teachers, the brief period of student teaching might not be enough preparation to be able to walk into their first classroom as an effective educator.

An innovative teacher preparation program in Texas Tech University’s College of Education aims to change that equation by giving teachers an entire year in the classroom before they even graduate from college.

Effective transformation from student to teacher

Launched in the fall of 2011, TechTeach focuses on four key features that assure teachers will be effective in the classrooms and promise higher testing scores from their pupils, said Doug Hamman, associate professor of Curriculum & Instruction and director of teacher education.

The four keys to the TechTeach system:

• Clinically intensive: Education majors begin the program in their junior year, which gives them four full semesters in a classroom and closer collaboration with their mentor teacher. During that time, the coursework focuses on instructional skills as well.

• Competency based: Creators have identified a set of instructional behaviors that are associated with greater student achievement gains. Those instructional competencies become the focus of coursework and how the teacher candidates are evaluated. Teacher candidates are evaluated through a video capture system called Teachscape.

• Achievement of the students in the classroom: a) during student teaching, their promise to the district is that the achievement gains of the students in the classroom where our teachers are will show more significantly than if the teacher had been in the classroom alone; b) when the student teacher is hired by the district, after two years of teaching, they will show value-added scores above the district average.

• Professionalism: From the moment they start the coursework as a college junior they are taught to conduct themselves professionally in their interactions with peers, senior teachers, administrators and students.

Growing the program locally

Hamman said in May 2014 the first cohort of TechTeach candidates will complete the program, then the college will begin assessing data from the classrooms. TechTeach students currently are in Lubbock Independent School District (ISD), Cooper ISD and Roosevelt ISD schools.

Kristi Holly of Monahans is a senior who is student teaching at Bayless Elementary in the Lubbock Independent School District.

“I have felt so welcome by my school this semester,” Holly said. “All of the staff treats us like we are regular, full-time employees and it is such a nice feeling to know they view us as teachers. We have been able to participate in every aspect of teaching, including professional development, ARD [admission, review and dismissal] meetings, staff meetings, bus duty and many other ‘jobs.’ I am entering the teaching field with unlimited resources and ideas, as well as confidence in my teaching ability.”

Lisa Davis, the principal at Bayless, says TechTeach candidates are a wonderful addition to the Bayless family.

“Having them on campus for a longer period of time allows them the opportunity to truly get to know the children, our staff members, parents, and our way of doing things,” Davis said. “It also allows them the opportunity to see how teachers both start and end a school year. These type of experiences help prepare them for the rigor of setting up a classroom, writing lesson plans, teaching and working with struggling students.”

Davis also said the opportunity provided through TechTeach to videotape their lessons, reflect upon them, and receive feedback from Texas Tech faculty, helps the soon-to-be teachers to improve their practice on a regular basis.

“As a campus administrator, when hiring a new teacher, I would take all of this into consideration and the TechTeach candidate would move ahead of any other candidates from a traditional program,” she said. “It is a fantastic opportunity that will benefit not only Lubbock ISD, but other districts across the state. And the bottom line is that it will help Texas children.”

The TechTeach program, introduced by the college’s dean, Scott Ridley, is modeled after iTeach, Arizona State University’s teacher prep program also designed by Ridley.

“The current system of teacher preparation produces much variability in the teachers who end up in the classrooms,” Hamman said. “This system ensures effective skills. Also, there is a policy change coming, in which teacher prep programs will be held accountable for how well their graduates do in the classrooms. We want to be ahead of the curve on that.”

Spreading the system statewide

TechTeach is branching out to select metropolitan areas of the state in spring of 2014. While the original program is a 2+2 (two years of community college or undergraduate work and two years of TechTeach) and places students in K-12 classrooms, the version being implemented in Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio is a distance-delivery 2+1 process. The students have two years at a community college and one full calendar year through Texas Tech’s program. In that time they complete their bachelor’s degree.

“The entire 54 hours are online so that the students can be in the classrooms student teaching instead of using up their time for coursework in a typical college classroom,” Hamman said.

The program also feeds an employment pipeline for the participating districts.

“A teaching candidate starts in a district, teaches in a district, and when it comes hiring time, the districts are going to look for people who know their schools well, evidence of competence, and who know the culture of the schools,” Hamman said. “The TechTeach candidates have already been in those schools a full year.”

Don’t miss the bus!

The TechTeach program is not exclusively for education majors, said Lauren Brownell, director of marketing for the College of Education. Students from many other majors can find a supplemental home in the college to get teacher certification.

“We are making a determined effort to reach out to math and science majors, engineering majors, agriculture majors to let them know they can minor in our college and get their teaching certificate,” Brownell said.

To that end, the college has sponsored two campus buses, wrapped with a depiction of a Superman-style double T shirt, and the phrase “Become more – join an elite force of future educators.”

“The bus is one of the most visible aspects of that effort to recruit other majors to come to us and not just the ones who come here to major in, say, elementary education,” Brownell said.

Brownell said the college is stepping up its social media presence as well, and anyone can follow them on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, Brownell has a “Spot the Bus” contest running through Nov. 1.

“Simply spot the buses around campus, take a photo, upload it to the Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #techteach, and be eligible for one of six prize packs from the college,” she said.

But Brownell is quick to say that the real prize is the many young people who become certified as teachers and believe they can make a difference in the lives of the students they will eventually instruct.

“These future educators truly believe they can have an influence, and our program prepares them to maximize that impact,” Brownell said.

The college’s goal is to have the measurably best teachers in the state because of the TechTeach program, and for the plan to become a national model of teacher education.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu.

CONTACT: Doug Hamman, director of teacher education, College of Education, (806) 834-4113 or doug.hamman@ttu.edu; or Lauren Brownell, communications director, (806) 834-5188 or lauren.brownell@ttu.edu.