Ahead of the Class: A Handbook for Preparing New Teachers from New Sources

Much ink has been spilled over the alarming estimate that our schools will need upwards of 2 million new teachers by 2010. Some U.S. schools are already experiencing a teacher shortage. Many districts have responded by ratcheting up their recruitment efforts, including developing programs that encourage paraprofessionals, retired military personnel, and career-switchers to enter the classroom, as well as seeking teachers overseas. While some of these recruitment programs are successful, few have undergone evaluation. The DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, however, is now four years into a six-year evaluation of its Pathways to Teaching Careers Program, which aims to identify and prepare high-quality nontraditional candidates for careers in public education. It has largely achieved these goals at each of its 42 sites, according to researchers Beatriz Chu Clewell of the Urban Institute and Ana Maria Villegas of Montclair State University. (This report does not, however, supply hard evidence.) To assist others in replicating this kind of program, Clewell and Villegas have compiled a "handbook." They stress the importance of building "ongoing partnerships between teacher education institutions and school districts," rather than vilifying teacher colleges and plotting their demise. The handbook includes chapters on creating such bonds, as well as recruiting and selecting program participants, designing curricula for would-be teachers, providing support services, and budgeting and administration. It also supplies practical tips that may useful for teachers and administrators seeking ways to bolster their ranks with new teachers. But it's no slam dunk. We find that "valuing diversity" tops Pathways' list of six central themes for teacher preparation while "strengthening subject matter knowledge" brings up the rear. Free copies are available from the Urban Institute at 2100 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037; 202-833-7200; www.urban.org.

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