Twenty-three community colleges in Florida are working together this week to seek a significant expansion of their role in teacher education.
Under a state law enacted last year, colleges in the state may apply to create Educator Preparation Institutes, which will offer one-year programs to retrain people with bachelor's degrees and careers in any number of fields to become teachers. Florida's schools face severe teacher shortages, prompting the new law.
The measure allows community colleges to apply, and they (along with other colleges) are expected to win approval from the state's Department of Education, which is receiving the application materials this week.
Judith Bilsky, vice chancellor for academic affairs of Florida's Division of Community Colleges, says that until now, the role of two-year institutions in teacher preparation has been limited to a few pilot programs and the ability to offer three lower-division courses for education majors. The new program "will significantly expand the role of community colleges," she says.
The colleges are seeking financial support from the state to help with costs and may also appeal to state officials for funds to hire new faculty members for the programs.
Demand for the programs is expected to be high because Florida is also increasing teacher salaries. Tuition for the community college programs is likely to be in the range of $1,500 to $2,000 for seven "modules" of instruction that have been prepared to cover education topics. All students will be required to have a bachelor's degree and to pass a background check.
David G. Imig, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, says that officials there have been carefully monitoring the Florida effort and want to see "how narrowly or broadly" the training in the new programs can be. Given the limits on what community colleges have done in teacher education to date, he says that the "real challenge" may be the "staffing up" that will be needed to provide the instruction.