The Teacher Preparation Program is still accepting applications
The Ector County ISD now has its second batch of teachers undergoing certification since Odessa Pathway to Teaching became a program in the district.
This is the sixth cohort since the start of the OPT. ECIDD has previously collaborated with TNTP, which stands for The New Teacher Project, to offer the OPT.
Director of Talent Development Debra Bynum said prospective teachers apply to the program and if accepted, they begin their certification test preparation and content work.
“They do it in the spring and strive to pass their certification exams. In June, they do what is called pre-training. For this year, it will be from May 30 to June 30. During the initial training, they gain experience in the classroom and they also receive instruction and work to develop their skills to make them effective in the classroom,” Bynum said. .
To help teachers prepare for the test, they offer tutoring in specific content areas and there are online programs they can access that they can also do independent study in, Bynum said.
If they don’t pass their test the first time, they review the test results and help them develop a specific study plan and find the right resources, Bynum said.
She added that they are also working on testing skills.
Osborne said they believe the ECIDD program is the most supportive educator preparation program available.
“It’s really beneficial for us to be onboarded at ISD Ector County because our candidates learn the culture of ECIDD from day one. From day one, they are taught what it means to be a teacher in the ECIDD; how to be a teacher in ECIDD…” Osborne said.
They also gain classroom experience and are paired with a mentor teacher and field supervisor who is part of the talent development team, which provides ongoing feedback, said executive director of talent development Ashley Osborne. .
“They can try things out in class and get ongoing feedback and really improve their skills with the students instead of just learning through online methods or textbooks what it means to be a teacher. They actually get the hands-on experience before they’re in their own class,” Osborne added.
Osborne noted that this is not the case with many alternative certification programs.
“…We really feel that Odessa’s Pathway to Teaching model best prepares candidates for what they will really experience in the classroom before they are given the responsibility of a class of their own,” Osborne said.
She noted that there are several application deadlines for Odessa Pathway to Teaching.
“We have a priority deadline, a fall deadline, a winter deadline, and then the final deadline. It really helps us convert people through the pipeline in a more supportive way because we’re in constant communication with them. Debbie is already working, and her team is already working, interviewing those who have already submitted their applications…” Osborne said.
She added that some of the teachers in the classrooms today have a bachelor’s degree, which is a requirement for Odessa Pathway to Teaching.
Since ECIDD is an innovation district, it may hire teachers who have a bachelor’s degree but are not yet certified.
Working with Human Resources, Bynum said they are trying to get the names and emails of these teachers so they can communicate with them about their participation in the OPT.
In the first batch of teachers ECASD received when the program became part of ECASD, Bynum said they had about 100 applicants last year and had accepted about 40 in the program. Through attrition, they ended up with about 22 who are currently active in the program.
“We have to allow that. Attrition happens for a variety of reasons – family emergencies, spouses are transferred and so they move; things like that,” Bynum said.
Osborne said they have annual recruiting goals based on the number of applicants they hope to see.
“Because we know that of all the applicants we get, not everyone is going to come into one of our classrooms because our kids deserve the best, and so there are some …criteria applicants must meet along the way that if they are also unable to meet these criteria, they will not be able to proceed with the program,” Osborne said.
“A good example of this is that among these applicants, some people did not even have a license yet and that is a requirement for us. Another eligibility requirement is to have at least a 2.5 GPA. If an applicant applying, he may have a bachelor’s degree, but if he does not have a 2.5 GPA, we will not be able to enroll him in our program This is the TEA requirement; 2.5 GPA overall, or 2.5 GPA in their last 60 credit hours We are bound by certain TEA requirements, as well as certain programmatic requirements,” Osborne said.
Bynum said many educator preparation programs charge application fees and test preparation fees, but they don’t. Candidates will have to pay for the tests, but it’s a state-mandated fee. They also have to pay to request their certificate and fingerprints.
The district charges $3,900 and may be collected as a payroll deduction once they begin teaching over two years.
Osborne said that when they are on the trainee certificate, they are the assigned teacher in an ECASD class and they earn a first-year teacher salary, which is $58,750 for ECASD. She added that that’s when they start payroll deductions.
Osborne added that getting a teacher certification isn’t easy.
“…It is intentional because we have a huge responsibility to the students to have a teacher who is well prepared, who is capable of the task at hand which is to teach young minds. So it’s not necessarily easy and that’s okay,” Osborne said.
Bynum said people who want to be certified to teach early childhood through sixth grade, or fourth through eighth grade, must now take and pass an additional test, the Science of Teaching Reading test.
“We have a huge initiative across the state to make sure our students have these foundational skills to succeed in reading because research has proven time and time again that if they are not reading at the grade level…at some point, then it becomes more difficult for them to succeed academically. They must therefore succeed in the science of teaching reading. Then, when they enter the classroom, they also complete a Reading Academy during their first year of teaching. There are more requirements now that they are moving towards this certification. But it’s just about building their toolset and giving them the skills they need to help their students be successful in learning,” Bynum said.
Osborne said they felt the OPT program was one of the most supportive.
“…We will help prepare our candidates to the best of our abilities so that there is no impediment to their certification that we can prevent,” Osborne said. “Debbie mentioned content prep and test prep. This is something we offer our applicants that other programs may not offer.
ECIDD also offers a program for paraprofessionals who wish to become teachers.
“…They may not have a baccalaureate yet, but we help them get that baccalaureate. We have an academy they can attend called Aspiring Teacher Academy which will build their toolbox. So ultimately, before they even have their own classroom, they have that skill set. …Once they have obtained their bachelor’s degree, they can join our Odessa Pathway to Teaching program to obtain this certification, if they wish. …,” Osborne said.