posted March 14, 2011

Hope Earns State Elementary Certificate Program Approval

The Hope College teacher-preparation program has earned approval from Michigan's Department of Education as meeting the standards required by the state's new Elementary Certificate Program.

There are currently 33 colleges and universities approved by the Michigan State Board of Education to prepare teachers and recommend them for a certificate to teach.  Only those that, like Hope, have obtained approval under the new standards will be allowed to admit students to their elementary teacher-education programs after December of this year.  The new standards will be reflected in the new version of the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC) that will be used after July 2013.

The approval follows a history of high praise for Hope's teacher-preparation program from the department in the past.  For example, Hope's program is one of six across the state tied for second place in the state's "Teacher Preparation Institution Performance Scores for Academic Year 2008-09," the most recent rankings available.

The state's new standards require that K-8 teacher candidates graduate with increased coursework in a variety of the subjects that they will be teaching, spread across English/language arts, mathematics, the natural and applied sciences, and social studies.  The goal is to improve student learning by deepening teachers' knowledge, according to Dr. Tony Donk, professor of education, who coordinated the college's successful effort to meet the new expectations.

"The state's goal is to make certain that they have deep and clear understandings of the disciplines that they'll be teaching, whatever the grade level," he said.

Hope is meeting the new requirements through a combination of existing and new courses.  For example, two currently elective courses in mathematics geared toward prospective elementary and middle school teachers will now become a required part of the program, while new offerings will include additional content courses in science, social studies and health.

As is also currently the case, students in the Hope program will enroll in the content courses in addition to enrolling in the college's sequence of professional education courses that focus on the theoretical foundations of teaching.

"The sum total is that our students will come out with much deeper content knowledge across all of the subjects that they will teach at the elementary level," Donk said.  "Plus, they will also continue to have the methodology courses across our program."

"We already have great teachers graduating," he said.  "But they'll be even better because of the content that they'll be taking."

The college's department of education prepares students to teach in elementary and secondary schools.  The program, which has 12 full-time faculty, is the college's largest in terms of the number of graduates, with 113 graduates, nearly 14 percent of the class, in 2010.

The teacher-education program at Hope provides prospective teachers with a blend of classroom instruction and field experience.  Students participate in field placements beginning with their first course in the program, Educational Psychology, a model that continues through a culminating semester spent student teaching.  The student-teaching placements are available not only locally but also through off-campus programs including in Chicago, Ill.; Philadelphia, Pa.; the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota; and Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

Student-led chapters of two national professional organizations, the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), offer professional development and service opportunities for teacher-education students.  Students in the program also have the chance to gain additional experience through activities such as volunteering with local organizations that work with children, such as the Children's After School Achievement (CASA) and Upward Bound programs based at Hope.

Graduates of Hope's education program teach in public and private K-12 schools around the country, as well as abroad.  Hope education alumni also serve as Peace Corps volunteers, counselors in elementary and secondary schools, curriculum coordinators and supervisors, school administrators and college professors.