Georgia charter schools have started their own first-in-the nation teacher certification program that is already inspiring charters in other states.
Teacher certification is a chokepoint for recruiting talented potential teachers, because it often requires years of preparation and thousands of dollars for applicants before they get a teaching job. Until the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy (GaTAPP) was established, charter teachers actually had to leave their jobs to student-teach in a traditional public school.
Studies show students of certified teachers learn no more than those of non-certified teachers.
Charter schools, by definition, attempt to innovate beyond typical public school practices. So Georgia charter schools began their own state-sanctioned alternative certification route so they could hire and train teachers their own way without breaking state certification requirements.
GaTAPP “is quickly being seen as a model for other charter support organizations across the country,” said Lisa Grover, senior director of state advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
To date, GaTAPP has graduated two cohorts totaling 59 teachers. The program is recruiting for 2014.
How It Works
GaTAPP teachers have to work in charter schools to enter the certification process. Prospective students must first have a bachelor’s degree or pass the state teacher certification test, then get hired by a charter school. They then earn their certification while working in the school.
The training involves online lectures and assignments, in-person workshops, and classroom feedback. The process can take one to three years, and it costs probationary teachers $4,000. The Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) reimburses many teachers $1,000 of that cost.
“Each teacher has an Individualized Induction Plan to meet the needs specific to the teacher based on their professional needs, as well as adhering to the mission and vision of the charter school to ensure innovation and educational reform,” said Juli Sergi, GCSA’s director of certification. “Each teacher has a candidate support team comprised of a school-based administrator and mentor, as well as a GCSA program director and program supervisor to support the teacher as they transition through the program.”
GaTAPP trains teachers in the framework and standards outlined by Charlotte Danielson’s A Framework for Teaching, which is aligned with a multitude of national and state standards, Sergi said. Danielson’s methods are used throughout the country, and they often form the basis for teacher evaluations.
Victor Martinez, an eighth grade science teacher at DeKalb PATH Academy, graduated from the program last year.
“As a career changer, I feel GaTAPP prepares you well for the educational field,” he said. “The mentor program allows you to learn in a supportive, structured way. The collaboration and classroom videos allow you to reflect on your teaching methods. Overall, GaTAPP is a great program that gives you the flexibility, support, and academic knowledge a teacher needs.”
Georgia has 314 charter schools with 225,800 students for the 2012-2013 school year.
Image by Universe Awareness.