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May 27, 2005
Melanie Mowry Etters
Innovative Program Helps Meet the State's Critical Need for Teachers
TALLAHASSEE Today, Education Commissioner John Winn took a giant step forward in addressing Florida's critical need for teachers by announcing at the Community College Council of Presidents meeting in Orlando that he has granted approval for the creation of Educator Preparation Institutes (EPI) at various community colleges throughout the state.
The Commissioner signed a memorandum of approval for St. Petersburg College to begin offering courses in their EPI program. In addition, the Commissioner also signed a letter of provisional approval for a joint EPI proposal submitted by 24 other Florida community colleges allowing them to complete the development of their EPI program infrastructure and curriculum.
"This is an exciting day for education in Florida," says Commissioner Winn. "First and foremost, this program will dramatically impact the number of teachers in our state, and secondly, it highlights the innovative spirit of the community college system."
The 2004 Legislature allowed for EPIs to be established at accredited postsecondary institutions to provide professional development for teachers for classroom improvement and for recertification purposes, training for substitute teachers, paraprofessional instruction, and competency-based instruction for Bachelor's Degree holders leading to temporary and full teacher certification.
This provisional approval of an EPI model will allow individual community colleges to apply for SUCCEED, Florida! grants or offer programs on their campuses with individual college plan approval.
EPIs will therefore provide an additional route to certification for mid-career professionals and college graduates who were not education majors, thus providing a larger pool of certified teachers for classroom instruction.
"The community colleges developing EPIs are strongly committed to offering programs with the highest professional and academic standards, with the goal of helping to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in the state," explains Commissioner Winn.
It is estimated that by 2006-07, Florida will need 29,604 additional teachers to meet student demand. "In light of more than 200,000 new teachers needed for Florida in the next decade, EPIs will play a vital role in building the future teacher workforce," says Winn.
Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Education Chancellor J. David Armstrong, Jr., is especially proud of this innovative program that will be offered through Florida's community colleges.
"Not only were community colleges the first postsecondary institutions to request the ability to offer EPIs, but the fact that 24 of our 28 community colleges collaborated to submit a joint application for the program is truly remarkable," Armstrong says.
The EPI programs choosing to offer competency-based alternative certification must meet the same standards and the same accomplished educator practices as any 4-year teacher education program, including field experience and a passing score on the Professional Education Certification Test. Colleges will be held accountable for documenting the teacher candidates' success rates, subject matter competency, and readiness for teaching and must submit to DOE annual performance evaluations that measure the effectiveness of the program.
It will be essential that colleges partner with school districts and/or private institutions to provide the essential classroom experience teacher candidates will need. To this end, a collaborative effort has been made and continues at DOE in planning EPI implementation by the Bureau of Teacher Recruitment, Development, and Retention of the Division of Public Schools; the Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Education; and the Division of Colleges and Universities.
Individuals with bachelor's degrees who are interested in initiating teacher preparation this summer or fall may contact the nearest participating community college for more information or to indicate an intent to enroll as programs become available.