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Inside the School of Education's meeting with the Acting Secretary of Education

Published: 09/30/2022

Acting Secretary of Education at Pennsylvania Department of Education

Acting Secretary of Education at Pennsylvania Department of Education

Students in Gannon’s School of Education welcomed Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Eric Hagarty this week. Dr. Leighann Forbes, Ed. D. spent the morning speaking with students, Hagarty and his team, and shares more from their discussion. Dr. Forbes serves as the Associate Dean for Faculty and Development, College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences; and associate professor in the School of Education.

Gannon School of Education Meeting with Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty

Our discussion centered around the need for teachers in the US and, specifically, in Pennsylvania. The secretary asked students what was on their minds, what he could take back to Harrisburg and advocate for that would help them to be successful now and once they become full-time classroom teachers. 

Students asked about state plans for slowing the rate of emergency certification for people who have not completed teacher preparation. They also asked about recruiting and training new teachers support structures for new teachers, support for students who have fallen further behind due to the pandemic, how districts and the state will view the impact of declining standardized test scores on teacher evaluations. 

The secretary shared plans for recruiting and emphasized the newly created talent officer position, connection to the labor department’s workforce funding, and implementing recommendations from the Pennsylvania Educator Workforce Strategy: Feedback from the Field report. The team also discussed strengthening induction programs with an emphasis on coaching and more support for emotional wellness as well as their willingness to seek input about assessment and teacher evaluation.

Faculty were also present and participated in the conversation. The secretary asked what was most difficult for our programs, and what he could do to help us train “incredible” teachers. We voiced concern about difficulties finding field placements and brainstormed some solutions and he is taking the feedback back to Harrisburg. We also discussed ways the graduate program can better support K12 teachers and he will pose the question to administrators through his conversations with the Intermediate Units in Pennsylvania. We look forward to learning more about opportunities for our graduate programs to support teachers.

The secretary’s special assistant spoke about the importance of the work done by good teachers and the intangible rewards. His words were very uplifting for the students.

Finally, we talked about the ways Pennsylvania will diversify pathways into the teaching profession, especially for those from demographics that are underrepresented in the profession.  Gannon currently offers several paths to obtain initial certification and has several means for reaching those underrepresented individuals.

Gannon’s School of Education offers several pathways to teacher certification.

  • Traditional 4-year undergraduate degree programs leading to certification in Early Childhood PreK-Grade 4, nine Middle-Level Grades 4-8 content area certifications, and four Secondary Grades 7-12 content area certifications.
  • A Teacher Residency option that allows completion of coursework in three years with a final year of field experience and student teaching in Erie’s Public Schools. This pathway leads to the opportunity to substitute teach post-graduation and interview for a position in the district.
  • Initial teacher certification for post-baccalaureate students is available for students who have received a bachelor’s degree and are returning for certification only. 
  • Teacher Internships may be available for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and have been hired as classroom teachers but have not yet completed a teacher certification program. This allows the individual to work in a classroom while pursuing certification.  
  • A Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction is currently available for those who wish to pursue initial certification while also completing a Master’s degree.  Because the M.Ed. coursework is focused on current teachers who will be pursuing specialized or administrative roles, we are in the process of phasing out the option to earn initial certification with the M.Ed. 
  • We are seeking approval for a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) that will be fewer credits than the M.Ed. and focus on teaching skills for initial certification.

The state is considering making teacher preparation free in Pennsylvania and adding an apprenticeship option for preparation.  If this becomes possible in Pennsylvania, we are well poised to add an apprenticeship model to our paths to certification.

The meeting ended with the secretary asking our students and faculty to reach out at any time with further questions or ideas. We were very appreciative of the opportunity to have discussion with the secretary and left feeling very hopeful.

- contributed by Dr. Leighann Forbes, Ed. D.

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