According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in 2021, more than 3,500 teaching positions in the state went unfilled or were filled by candidates without the proper qualifications. To help alleviate the teacher shortage in the state, Ozarks Technical Community College is updating its teaching degree to remove barriers and increase accessibility for more students.
“Even before the coronavirus, we needed more teachers in Missouri, and the pandemic accelerated the number of resignations and retirements, ” said Angela Miller, OTC department chair of teacher education. “The changes we are making to our teacher education degree will allow more students the opportunity to follow their passion and pursue a career in the classroom.”
Currently, OTC offers an Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT). The new degree will be called the Associate of Arts in Teacher Education (AA.TED). Like the AAT, the AA.TED is designed for students who plan to transfer to a four-year institution to complete a bachelor’s degree and eventually become K-12 teachers. The new degree pathway will debut for the 2022-23 school year.
Features of the Associate of Arts in Teacher Education include:
- The AA.TED will require 60 hours to graduate, five fewer than the AAT.
- The AA.TED can be completed entirely online.
- The AA.TED introductory course will have a workforce development focus. While teaching students about the degree pathway and career options, they will also learn about substitute teaching and paraprofessional employment opportunities. A student could potentially work in an education setting while earning their associate degree.
- The degree has minimal textbook costs—almost all of the education classes in the degree pathway use no-cost course materials.
- Beginning in the fall, the college will offer nineteen $500 scholarships for students pursuing the AA.TED. Made possible by a grant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Lincoln Legacy scholarships are named after Lincoln School, the school for African-American children in Springfield before integration. Lincoln School, now called Lincoln Hall, is an academic building on the OTC Springfield Campus.
A change in a state GPA requirement will open the profession to more students
Thanks to a change by the Missouri Board of Education in 2021, the AA.TED will also drop its requirement of a 2.75-grade point average for any student intending to graduate and transfer into a bachelor’s degree teacher education program. To align with state requirements, AAT students must have a cumulative GPA of 2.75. While students in the AA.TED will still have to maintain a 3.0 GPA in their content and education courses; the overall cumulative GPA requirement is 2.0 — the same as anyone pursuing any associate degree.
Many students will benefit from the cumulative GPA shift, especially non-traditional students who may have decades-old credits on their transcripts, which could weigh down their overall GPA.
OTC student Rhonda Black-Fry, 45, currently works as a paraprofessional in Springfield Public Schools and hopes to become a special education teacher. She plans to graduate with her AAT this spring, but test anxiety and struggles with a math class could prevent her from achieving the necessary 2.75.
“I have to re-take a math class for the fourth time because I did not pass the class with a high enough grade to get my GPA up,” Black-Fry said. “I’m re-taking classes that do not pertain to my degree just to meet the 2.75 GPA requirement. I have perfect grades in my education classes, and you can talk to my colleagues – I’m a good teacher – but the GPA requirement has cost me a lot of time and money.”
Susan Iavolo attended OTC in the past, but the challenge of single motherhood derailed one of her attempts at a degree. Later, a problematic pregnancy forced her to withdraw from classes a second time. Saddled with poor grades from those two attempts, Iavolo welcomes the reduction in the required cumulative GPA as she pursues an art education degree via OTC’s new AA.TED.
“I just didn’t withdraw from my classes properly when I first attended college,” Iavolo said. “I am doing well in my classes now, and I am thankful that I won’t have to pay to re-take courses to bring up my overall GPA.”
Besides being a barrier for people who might make good teachers, the cumulative GPA requirement assumes students with higher grades make better teachers. However, that may not be the case. In a study published in 2019, researchers at Texas State University found that increasing the GPA requirements for teacher education “….would reduce the number of high-quality teachers, but students of color and male students would be negatively impacted to a much greater degree. Moreover, increasing the GPA admission criterion to 2.75 resulted in no improvements in six outcomes examined….”
The new degree offers several areas of concentration
Students enrolled in the AA.TED have 12 areas of emphasis they can choose to pursue.
|Early childhood education (pre-K-3)||Elementary education (1-6)||Family and consumer sciences|
|Middle school and high school social studies||Middle School and high school English||Middle school science|
|Middle school mathematics||High School Mathematics||Agriculture|
|Special Education (K-12)||K-12 art||Speech and Theatre|
Students interested in the AA.TED should call 417-447-6604 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.