Fall Institute 2022: Dr. Cheri St. Arnauld
Where was Community College Teacher Education 20 years ago and where do we see its role today?
I view NACCTEP’s role in community college teacher preparation over the last 20 years through the lens of three influencing factors: financial, political, and entrepreneurial. Though each are critical to evolve quality teacher preparation, some of these factors we can impact and, unfortunately, some we can’t. We can only continue to dedicate ourselves to the cause of quality teaching and learning and the community college role in the process.
Financial – Twenty years ago we were looking at how we might bring visibility and influence on state funding for teacher salaries. At the time, teachers working in school districts were using career ladder funds to earn bonus money after demonstrating high stakes accountability and student achievement. The controversial Teach for America movement was really gaining traction in Phoenix, where university STEM graduates were brought into a classroom, teaching within inner city schools for a year or two of service, as they were given additional bonus money to augment standard teacher salaries. These new teachers often entered the classroom with no pedagogical background and no teacher preparation. They did, however, have a strong support system within the Teach for America organization.
State funding varied widely across the country. Being involved in local conversations and being a player at the table was one way we could begin to build visibility.
Today –Are teachers’ salaries significantly higher? The national average K-12 teacher salary is $64,524, which still varies significantly by state, but is this keeping up with the rate of inflation? Are we keeping and attracting strong university graduates out of STEM fields to become teachers? Has the state appropriated significant funds to impact teaching and learning as well as retain quality teachers in the field? Has accountability in the schools changed to influence funding?
Political – NACCTEP started with an appropriation from Edward Pastor, who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives in Arizona from 1991 to 2015. We lobbied for this funding during our first trip to Washington, DC. Lobbying in DC for community colleges is one of the most significant things we started doing in the early years of NACCTEP. It was an excellent learning experience for all of us and brought visibility to community colleges and their impact in politics. However, local politics also has a strong hold over issues between the community colleges and the universities. We started NACCTEP to influence and advocate for community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, teacher education specifically. We were always strong teaching colleges and believed that we had something to offer influencing the quality of teaching happening in the K-12 schools.
Today – There is a notice on the MCCCD website that says, “Pending the Higher Learning Commission (accrediting agency) approval, we are planning to offer bachelor's degrees as soon as Fall of 2023”. It has been over 20 years and it seems we are still working towards this change. Have the politics between colleges and universities changed over time?
High stakes accountability, standardized testing, from No Child Left Behind to Common Core, teaching all students in our diverse school systems will continue to be a challenge.
Entrepreneurial – The community colleges were always very entrepreneurial. It is fitting that NACCTEP moved into Rio Salado. At the time Rio Salado was on the forefront of online teaching as well as building 3 plus 1 agreements for completing bachelor degrees. Community colleges were also on the forefront of building quality curriculum, online and on ground. We built upon the Merlot efforts which is now the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT), and the efforts of Sloan – C which eventually became the Online Learning Consortium. We believed strongly in modeling what quality teaching should look like in both K-12 and college classrooms and endeavored to be a part of the development to use innovative learning objects in community college teaching. There were groups of entrepreneurial faculty who created and used these in many associate degree courses.
We also started the National Conference, held in conjunction with the League for Innovation, to showcase, demonstrate and inspire new ways of teaching in classrooms and online.
Today – I still believe that community colleges are forward thinkers in their efforts to demonstrate quality teaching and learning, both in their own classes as well as influencing what quality teacher education looks like.