By Christopher Reid
Teaching is a tough yet rewarding career. Often underappreciated, teachers carry the responsibility of planning engaging lessons, serving as a role model, and acting as a de facto counselor for the students they teach. As PK-12 school districts grapple with staffing vacancies, alternative certification programs (ACPs) have stepped in to provide more candidates for hire.
According to federal Title IIdata released in 2019, new teachers opt to enroll in ACPs over traditional undergraduate programs at a rate of 3:1. The percentage of new teacher candidates enrolled in Texas ACPs has increased from 71% to 75% since 2016, and the prevalence of ACP candidates has helped PK-12 school districts meet staffing needs at all levels.
In Waco, McLennan Community College offers an alternative route to teacher certification for individuals wishing to start a career in education. Prospective candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree, though not necessarily in education. MCC provides intensive preparation and ongoing support to its teacher candidates, guiding them through the pre-service and in-service phases of their nascent careers.
The ACP at MCC offers certification areas ranging from the early childhood and elementary levels to secondary humanities and math/science. Candidates benefit from ongoing support in the form of a field supervisor, who periodically visits their classroom to offer guidance and advice for improvement. Additionally, each teacher candidate is assigned a campus-based mentor — a fully-certified, experienced teacher who helps shepherd the new teacher in the first year as teacher of record.
MCC also provides an internship course, which meets in-person monthly during the first year of teaching. Laura Conrad, assistant program director of the Alternative Teacher Certification Program, instructs the class on Saturdays, providing support to teachers as they navigate their first year in the classroom.
“The first year of teaching can be difficult, even for the most successful teacher candidates,” said Conrad. “The Internship class is a supportive environment for first-year teachers to discuss challenges and concerns while also building a toolbox of strategies for classroom management, instruction, and assessment.”
This support is apparent, as MCC boasts an average of 96% passing rate for the two state-mandated teacher certification exams (content and pedagogy exams). Moreover, McLennan Community College’s ACP successfully placed 91% of its candidates into full-time teaching roles by the time they completed the program. MCC program completers are hired in school districts across the state from Houston to Dallas, but the highest concentration of teachers are hired in McLennan County.
As the state of Texas braces for teacher retirements and possible teacher shortages, ACPs, such as at MCC, will play a vital role in the teacher preparation pipeline to ensure that all students have an excellent teacher in the classroom. Because MCC is already training and supporting new teachers in Waco-area classrooms, they have partnered with Prosper Waco’s Center for Transforming Alternative Preparation Pathways to broaden their impact and to ensure a robust teacher pipeline for McLennan County.
Stay tuned to future newsletters for exciting updates about MCC’s partnership with CTAPP at Prosper Waco, and visit MCC’s website to learn more about their program!
Christopher Reid is director of the Center for Transforming Alternative Preparation Pathways at Prosper Waco. He leads CTAPP’s efforts related to teacher preparation, partnering with alternative certification programs to improve programming, and novice teacher effectiveness. CTAPP continues to do great work but is no longer a part of Prosper Waco.