When administrators in Texas Tech’s College of Education heard from officials in K-12 school districts that the university’s graduates were smart but not ready for the classroom, they knew something had to change.
“If you have a district telling you, your new teachers aren’t doing well and they’re not well-prepared, you’ve got student achievement data that is lower than demographically similar groups across the state, it’s an indication that you need to do something better,” Doug Hamman, chairman of the Department of Teacher Preparation in the College of Education, says.
According to Hamman, Tech Teach requires teacher candidates spend a whole school year in a classroom before they even graduate. The State Board of Educator Certification in Texas requires far less – just 12 weeks.
Tech Teach, and a wider, similar initiative called Tech Teach across Texas, have created partnerships with school districts to share data and allow university and district administrators to work more closely and ensure needs are being met. A Texas Tech faculty member serves as a site coordinator at schools so teacher candidates can be coached and evaluated regularly.
“The other thing that really sets us apart is the work of the site coordinator,” Hamman says. “The site coordinator is a Texas Tech employee but they work as instructional coaches for the teacher candidates and they’re embedded in the schools.”
Tech Teach, which was introduced six years ago, has gotten stellar praise. In 2016, the program earned recognition as an outstanding preparation for teacher candidates from the Texas Education Agency. Also, the National Council on Teacher Quality chose the program as one of 35 teacher preparation programs that earned top scores in high school content standard.
And in 2015, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the College of Education $7 million dollars Texas Tech’s College of Education to establish a coalition of universities and school districts to improve teacher education.
A 2014 Texas Tech graduate -- and part of the inaugural TechTeach class -- says he benefitted greatly from program. Twenty-five-year-old Julio Hernandez was selected as teacher of the year at Hutchison Middle School this year. He teaches Spanish to eighth graders.
“I think Tech Teach makes you really prepared for the classroom, makes you really prepared to teach students,” Hernandez says. “They really challenge you to make lesson plans and you get evaluated on your lessons plans.”
The state of Texas has wrestled with teacher shortages in recent years, which led to an influx of teachers with too little classroom experience and support. That was part of what prompted the formation of the teacher preparation department. Plus, the college of education had gotten feedback from school districts that graduates were smart but not ready for the classroom.
Hamman says partnerships with school districts are critical to the success of Tech Teach. “We’re committing to the district that we’ll send them high quality teacher candidates, that they’ll have a positive impact on students they’re teaching and when they graduate and work for the district, they’re going to be their best teachers.”
The program began in 2011 when the College of Education brought in its new dean, Scott Ridley, from Arizona State University.
Hammans says The Teacher Advancement Program rubric used in Tech Teach is unique.