Special to The Sun
Across Oklahoma enrollment numbers in Colleges of Education are showing alarming drops, with fewer students choosing education as a career path. Even fewer are answering the call to teach in an urban school district, which provides unique environments and challenges.
However, the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma are partnering together to respond to the urban teacher shortage by expanding the Urban Teacher Preparation Academy.
The only program of its type in the state, the UTPA is an innovative program that works in close partnership with Oklahoma City Public Schools to place upper-level education majors in schools throughout the district for three years of mentored clinical teaching experience.
Since the first cohort started in the program at UCO in 2010, 34 students have participated, with 17 of those now employed as full-time teachers in the OKCPS district and 13 currently student teaching. An additional two graduates are teaching full time in other urban districts in the state.
Still, the need for teachers trained through programs like the UTPA continues to grow rapidly.
“Those of us in higher education share a commitment to meeting the specific needs of our community. Together, UCO and OU can make a significant impact in the lives of the thousands of students enrolled in Oklahoma City’s public schools, and we’re thrilled to expand this program,” said Jim Machell, dean of Central’s College of Education and Professional Studies.
OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education will take the UTPA model established at Central to start its first cohort of students in the program for the spring 2013 semester.
“We are very excited about starting our first UTPA cohort. This partnership represents a great opportunity for OU teacher education students who are passionate about serving in urban schools, and for children in OKC public schools. We look forward to working closely with UCO and Oklahoma City Public Schools through the UTPA,” stated Terri DeBacker, associate dean for Professional Education.
Oklahoma City Public Schools started the 2012-13 school year with 270 teacher vacancies. Currently the district is 80 teachers short. This shortage is expected to increase as more teachers retire. In the next three years, 433 teachers are eligible for retirement and meet retirement standards. There are another 410 teachers who are retirement ages, but don’t meet the retirement standards.
“We are at a critical time in education and specifically in an urban education setting with a looming teacher shortage on the horizon. It is through creative partnerships like UTPA and the thoughtful leadership at both OU and UCO that will put Oklahoma City Public Schools in a better situation to prepare our students for academic achievement,” said Karl Springer, Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent.
Machell added that the UTPA may expand to more state universities in the future, ultimately creating a consortium throughout Oklahoma.
The UTPA immerses students in the challenges of teaching in an urban setting with real-world experience in OKCPS elementary, middle and high schools. Students in the program have a yearlong clinical teaching experience, followed by a two-year induction and mentoring process. The program includes professional development for the OKCPS teachers and administrators serving as mentors for UTPA students.
Students selected for the academy go through a competitive application process and exhibit the passion, knowledge and determination that are vital to being a highly effective teacher in an urban setting.
FOR MORE information, on the UTPA at UCO, visit www.uco.edu/ceps/utpa or call 405-974-5144. For more information on the UTPA at OU call 405-325-1275.