Colorado State University Licensing Program Provides Student Teachers Classroom Immersion, Skill Development

Colorado State University’s licensing program for teachers is launching a program aimed at supplying high school and junior high teachers to areas in Denver and across the United States where a high level of at-risk students makes recruiting quality teachers difficult, particularly those teaching math, science, technology and engineering. The program also helps people who are shifting careers to teaching become licensed more quickly.

The program, tagged as a high-need professional development school model, is recognized as one of the best programs in the nation by the Colorado Department of Education. After a three-week intensive boot camp to prepare student teachers for the classroom, the students are immediately partnered with a seasoned teacher and immersed in real classrooms in the Denver area’s Adams 14. Student teachers instruct alongside a veteran each morning and take courses in the afternoon required to receive their license. Following a model similar to a medical teaching hospital, the student teachers are exposed to situations in the classroom that immediately make their education in the field more salient.

"In this particular area, reaching students in the classroom has a particular set of challenges," said Donna Cooner, director of Colorado State’s teacher licensure program. "About 70 percent to 80 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch programs. There is a high level of poverty within this community. But immersion in the classroom provides those learning to be teachers with an opportunity to develop skills, under the guidance of someone who has mastered them, to reach students who are subject to many outside pressures and stresses. It provides them with an edge in their future classrooms and an edge in their future search for employment."    

Junior high and high school students tend to show little interest and achievement in math and science, and Cooner points out that having fewer professional scientists and mathematicians in the future presents a challenge to the economic competitiveness of America.

"Research shows that the quality of preschool-through-12th grade mathematics and science teaching is the single most important factor in improving student mathematics and science achievement," Cooner said. "However, at the same time there is a documented lack of highly skilled and engaging teachers in those subjects. Experts predict that more than 280,000 new teachers in math and science will be needed by 2015."

The program will be capped at about 20 students per year, with the initial courses beginning in the summer. At the end of the one-year program, students will have both a master’s degree in education and a license to teach in Colorado.     

With the current economy, many professionals are seeking new opportunities in a career field that is different from their current experience. Obtaining a master’s degree in addition to a teaching license provides an opportunity for a higher salary.

The efforts of this Colorado State University model to involve student teachers quickly in classroom settings and increase trained teachers available for math and science classrooms, where qualified instructors are lacking to teach junior and high schools, has been praised by the Colorado Department of Education in a recent on-site review. The program also offers joint teaching licenses and master’s degrees in business, English, family and consumer sciences, foreign languages, social studies and speech.

"The new science, technology, engineering and math program, with university support and external funding, places CSU at the forefront in these critical areas," according to a recent department report.