Michigan public and charter schools could not hire even one graduate of Hillsdale College’s classical or early childhood education programs this past spring. That’s about to change.
As Michigan education policy mandates, teachers must earn their certification from the state to work at any public or charter school. Hillsdale’s education programs do not facilitate students’ state certification as of 2009, so graduates in search of teaching jobs in Michigan look to private institutions. But the Michigan Department of Education approved a new program in August, Michigan Teachers of Tomorrow, which offers a solution to college graduates who want to teach in public institutions but lack the certification.
“It is absolutely possible for a Hillsdale College graduate to finish college in May and enter into the classroom by August as the teacher of record if they are determined to do so,” Teachers of Tomorrow Michigan Program Director Robert Brooks said in an email.
Michigan Teachers of Tomorrow is an alternative certification program provider through which college graduates earn an Interim Teaching Certificate after completing more than 300 hours of online coursework, according to its website.
When students emerge from traditional teacher preparation programs, like the ones Michigan State University and the University of Michigan run, the state grants them a provisional teaching certificate. Hillsdale once offered the same kind of program, but three people handled the same amount of paperwork and administrative tasks entire teams dealt with at bigger schools. When the Department of Education increased its expectations, Hillsdale’s education department discontinued the program.
“What Teachers of Tomorrow does is it adds another layer below the provisional, and it’s called an interim certification,” said Dan Coupland, education department chairman and dean of faculty.
The interim certificate is valid for three years. Other than a shorter period of validity, no differences exist between the two certificates.
“To a local school district, it doesn’t matter,” Coupland said. “All teachers need is some kind of a certification, whether it’s interim, provisional, or professional.”
Michigan Teachers of Tomorrow would make a career in public education possible for any graduating senior, if the program accepts them. Although most Hillsdale students elect to pursue jobs in classical schools, Coupland said, a few consider public education.
“Most people who come to Hillsdale and graduate from Hillsdale want to be involved in the same kind of thing,” he said. “They came to Hillsdale for a liberal-arts education, so I’d imagine they want to provide that kind of education in their own classrooms, and so they go to a classical school.”
To gain admission into Michigan Teachers of Tomorrow, candidates must have graduated from college with a GPA of 2.95 or higher, passed a subject-area exam relevant to the field they wish to teach, and taken any Michigan basic skills test such as the ACT or SAT, according to Brooks.
The program does not require its applicants to have earned any type of degree in education, though Brooks said any prior study of education will help new teachers as they enter the classroom.
“If a student completes the classical education minor at Hillsdale, that would help out the student to initially get started with our program,” Brooks said. “That student will be very familiar with our initial online Classroom Readiness training, and they will be able to get through that training quite quickly with that knowledge they already possess.”
Hillsdale’s classical education minor bases itself in the seven classical liberal arts and the philosophy of education. Some students also complete the Liberal Arts Teacher Apprenticeship, which gives them hands-on experience in local classrooms.
“Students with past experience tend to be more comfortable with the coursework and are already acclimated to a lot of the material that we will cover with them as well so everything is a smoother transition for the candidate,” Brooks said.
Registrar Douglas McArthur used to serve as the college’s teacher certification officer when Hillsdale offered the certification program.
“On the positive, these programs appear to be less costly and less administratively burdensome for participants,” McArthur said.
The program costs about $5,500, a price participants pay off over the course of 15 months.
“On the negative, these programs don’t result in a graduate degree, as many post-baccalaureate programs from traditional colleges and universities do,” McArthur said. “Finally, programs like T of T are subject to the challenges of any new thing, and their track record of effectiveness and efficiency is still being established and evaluated.”
Students interested in Michigan Teachers of Tomorrow can visit https://michigan.teachersoftomorrow.org or call 866-411-076 for more information.