The Teacher Preparation Program (TPP) recruits diverse candidates through four major activities where it orients students from the diverse schools (public and private) and colleges (Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, Agriculture and Engineering) to enter the curricular sequences or alternative routes. Candidates possess diverse academic interests and come from diverse socio-economic environments. The departments of Agricultural Education (EDAG), Math Education and Physical Education traditionally recruit through the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM) Admission’s Office hence candidates must comply with the minimum admission index (IMA in Spanish) established for each department (3.1.1). UPRM Academic Senate approves the IMA which is subject to revision every year.
1) The Annual UPRM Open House on campus; UPR hosts its annual UPR EXPO where eleven campuses expose their diverse academic offers for all public and private high schools island wide to recruit the best students (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/open_house__other_activities). TPP takes part in both activities and provides information to potential candidates to entice admissions; TPP brochures are handed out for the various TPP areas of specialization. Occasionally, candidates who are in the Future Teacher Association (FTA) collaborate by speaking with the future students.
2) Through first-year student orientations where TPP admission information is offered both in writing and orally both English and Spanish (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/brochures_ppm ).
3) Through the Foundations of Education which UPRM students can take as a free or recommended elective towards their Socio-Humanistic electives. Potential candidates are given the brochure and invited to visit the department for a more personalized orientation.
4) Diverse academic counselors at the various departments that offer updated information of the TPP. Once students have declared their intention of taking additional courses in education, they are interviewed and advised to formally apply through the Registrar’s Office for their admission to TPP.
The application and student academic record is evaluated to verify the Grade Point Average (GPA) entry requirement; TPP proceeds to accept their application and schedules a teaching disposition interview. Our candidates come from diverse departments such as: Plastic Arts, Biology, Micro Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Psychology, Sociology, Political Sciences, Humanities, History, Spanish, English, Agriculture, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Industrial Engineering; all of which account for diverse forms of thinking and interests parting from their initial career selection. Students admitted to TPP during 2013-14 up to 2015-16 academic years were from 53 out of 78 towns in Puerto Rico. Forty 48%were from western; 13.5% from northern; 14% from southern; 1.5% come from the eastern part, the most distant from Mayaguez; and 24% from the central mountainous region, which is the poorest in economic terms (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/map_of_candidates_origin). TPP candidates reflect diverse demographic socioeconomic origins, similar to those of students from PK-12 in Puerto Rico. The TPP and EDAG directors receive monthly orientations regarding the national and local teacher recruitment needs with officials from the Institute for the Professional Development for Educators at the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) and the Educational Clinical Experience Program. TPP also receives recruitment offers from various school districts, private and public schools in Puerto Rico and the United States. During 2014-2015, we received an average of 40 applications to cover teaching positions in the following areas of specialization: Theatre (2), Spanish (6), English (7), Math (7), Science (6), Chemistry (3), Physics (3), Physical Education (3), History (2), Social Studies (1) and Environmental Sciences (1). We also received invitations to participate in 3 job fairs, one from the state of Pennsylvania, one from Dallas, Texas and one from Portland, Maine (3.1.2). The PRDE publishes on their website http://intraedu.dde.pr/empleos/default.aspx all teaching openings open for different areas of specialization. Each region has a website for special recruitment regarding areas of urgent hiring needs in PR. When PRDE publishes an announcement, TPP sends this information out in an e-mail to TPP alumni through a database of e-mails which is expanded every semester to include recent graduates who completed the requirements for their teaching license. PRDE establishes in their Regulations for Teacher Certification (2012) the requirements for the regular teaching license: It specifies that from 2012-2013 to 2015-2016, candidates have to approve the fundamental courses, are required to pass the Teacher Certification Examination (PCMAS) and must comply with a concentration and general GPA of 2.80 of a 4.0 scale. Parting from 2016-2017, the minimum required GPA will increase to 3.0 of a 4.0 scale (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/prde_regulations_for_teacher_certifications). UPRM establishes an entry GPA which responds to the demand and supply of each academic year. For the curricular sequence and alternate route, TPP establishes the entry index to the program according to the requirements established PRDE, therefore TPP candidates who entered from 2012-2013 until 2015-2016 had a general GPA of 2.80 of a scale of 4.0 in their concentration. However, our statistics show the entry index for specialization in professional courses and the exit GPA is higher than 2.8 (3.2.1). TPP ensures the average GPA of its accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds the CAEP minimum of 3.0 throughout several progression points in the program (3.2.2). The 2013-2014 cohort of 84 candidates had an admission index average of 3.64; a specialization index of 3.50, a professional index of 3.61 and the cohort completed their bachelors with a general GPA of 3.19. The 2014-2015 cohort of 70 candidates had an average admission index of 3.74, a specialization of 3.67, a professional index of 3.70 and completed their bachelor’s degree with a general GPA of 3.38. The 2015-2016 cohort of 63 had an average admission index of 3.66, a specialization index of 3.69, and a professional index of 3.67 and they completed their bachelor’s degree with a general GPA of 3.25. Regarding the group average performance on nationally normed ability /achievement assessments, in PR, TPP candidates take the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). Admission to UPRM is very competitive; indices are based on a combination of high school GPA and CEEB Verbal and Mathematical Reasoning scores. According to the recently completed MSCHE report, the average UPRM admission index is roughly 20 points higher than the average UPR admission index. The median score on the CEEB Verbal and Mathematical Reasoning has varied from 409 to 449 and from 399 to 430 over the past three years (October and February exam dates). There were at least 27,000 exam takers on each of the dates used for comparison. Scores in the 450-499 range were in the 60th to 70th percentile range on these exams (3.2.3). The great majority of teacher candidates admitted to UPRM program scored well above the national norm on standardized college admission exams.
TPP establishes and monitors attributes and dispositions beyond academic ability that candidates must demonstrate at admissions and during the program. In the past, TPP carried out an informal interviews exploring potential candidate teaching dispositions. However, beginning the first semester of the 2016-2017 academic year, an instrument will be used which was constructed by the education programs to determine what candidate attributes and dispositions students in their first year understand are important in the development of their careers. Upon the review of the literature, 21 dispositions were selected, which according to Johnson & Reman (2007) are the most important in the professional development of a candidate or teacher, all of which were aligned with InTASC in the validation process. In the pilot study, 20 first-year candidates answered a series of questions and through their answers, a sense of what their teaching dispositions are and what would they bring to their teaching once they become educators is palpable. The analysis of the open-ended questions was done through coding, establishing categories and subcategories which were obtained from the answers to the questions. To analyze the dispositions, the answers were categorized and the frequencies of the ranking counted. (Hernandez Sampieri, 1998, p. 289-307). To validate the content of the instrument, 20 students in the first education course were asked to rank the dispositions from the most important to the least important and then explain their selection. This education course is taken by students at UPRM as a socio-humanistic elective which is offered to all colleges, therefore securing a wide range of participants regarding academic preference (3.3.1). After validating the instrument, the recommendations were taken into consideration and the dispositions were reduced to 8. A professor from psychology, specialist in educational psychology validated the content of the instrument followed by a professor of Spanish and one from TPP who checked the writing and spelling in Spanish. These professionals recommendations were integrated into the document (3.3.1a). The modified questionnaire was administered a second time to the same pilot group for a measure of stability to calculate reliability (Creswell, 2009, p. 145-170; Fowler, 2009, p. 110-112; Hernández Sampiere, 1998, p. 234-244). In both instances, most (34%) of the first-year candidates chose professionalism as the most important disposition a candidate or regular teacher must possess. On the other hand, they selected community of learners (66%) as the least important disposition. This semester, PRDE issued Policy Letter 12-2016-2017 (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/policy_letter_professional_learning_communities) where they mandate that all schools establish Professional Learning Communities (MECPA). The main objective of MECPA is to improve teachers’ educational practices and increase collaborative leadership as a means to improve student achievement by using data analysis and continuous reflection (p. 4). In order to monitor our TPP candidates’ teaching dispositions, we will administer this survey to candidates at three different points: 1) in their first year 2) during their methodology course; and 3) at the end of their clinical practice. This will provide the opportunity to observe candidates’ progression and if there has been a change in their teaching dispositions. Questionnaires will be placed in their files. TPP continuously observe candidates’ dispositions in all of the candidate’s classes. During the clinical experience observation, the CES is keen to note in the observation instrument if these dispositions are present in the candidates’ performance (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/observation_instrument_for_teaching_practice_impro). TPP has created criteria for program progression and monitors candidate advancement from admissions through completion. These moments are clearly outlined in the TPP Conceptual Framework (CF) and at what points they are monitored and candidate progression is observed (pages 45-50 in http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/uprm_tpp_conceptual_frame). First, potential candidates must comply with admission’s certain criteria, i.e., they should have a general and specialization GPA of 2.80 up to 2015-2016; and beginning fall of 2016-2017, a general and specialization GPA of 3.0. After the potential candidate is positively evaluated, they are invited to TPP for a meeting, interview and orientation regarding curriculum. (3.4.1). The second progression point is observed after the candidate has approved 15 credits in foundation courses with a GPA of 3.00 and above. Candidates then request the methodology course of their area of specialization which is either approved or denied based on the evaluation of the candidate’s performance (3.4.2). In methodology, candidates construct lesson plans, demonstrate a class using technology and follow the standards and expectations required for each area of specialization and grade level according to the PRDE which focuses on College-and-Career-Ready Standards. (www.pr.ed.gov Puerto Rico Standards). All candidates prepare an electronic portfolio where they evidence their progress. Through this e-portfolio, candidates ascertain they know and use the contextual factors of their EPEC to correctly plan and carry out an inclusive class (1.2.2). The candidate is required a minimum of 15 hours of observations and reflections at a clinical experience center to observe a cooperating teacher perform teaching/learning experiences related to the candidates’ area of specialization (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/clinical_experience_manual). After the candidate passes the methodology course, there is a third evaluation of the candidate’s record to ensure the candidate has upheld a general and concentration GPA of 3.00 or higher. If so, the candidate is registered in the clinical practice course. The fourth progression point is observed when the candidate performs the clinical experience and attends the Educational Practice Experience Center (EPEC) 4 hours every day, 5 days a week where they carry out a daily class while observed by the CT and aide the CT during the other three remaining hours. The CES will visit 6 times during the semester to monitor and carry out formative and summative evaluations; and the CT will monitor daily and carry out formative and summative evaluations as well (http://uprm.edu/p/eppcaep/observation_instrument_for_teaching_practice_impro ). Both the CT and CES may evaluate candidates at the same time or do it separately. Candidates support their progress through their e-portfolio and through the careful construction of learning objectives, formative assessment, test construction and adequate use of technology as a teaching tool. On the e-portfolio candidates present their tabulations and analysis to illustrate student progress and to make teaching decisions regarding re-teaching to continue forward with the next learning cycle. At the end of this experience, candidates present a written reflection where they self-assess their clinical practice in the TCWS (1.2.2). CES meet twice a semester to share information related to candidates’ performance (3.4.3).
Before TPP recommends any completing candidate for licensure or certification, it documents the candidate has reached a high standard for content knowledge in the fields where certification is sought and can teach effectively with positive impacts on P-12 student learning and development. Both TPP and EDAG must determine which candidates are qualified to take the State Teacher Examination (PCMAS) which is offered during March. Every January, the records of candidates who have completed their clinical practice or are currently enrolled in the clinical practice and have informed TPP of their interest in taking the State Examination are evaluated. No candidate may take PCMAS without the prior approval by the TPP or EDAG Directors. PCMAS in Puerto Rico is administered by College Board and is usually offered on the last week of March. The results are received 45 working days after the exam is administered, generally mid-May, and at that time as well, candidates self-assess themselves and evaluate TPP. Upon receipt, TPP immediately identifies candidates and the parts they did not pass in PCMAS. Meetings with the academic departments involved are held to discuss, make decisions and plan a course of action to correct or mitigate the deficiencies identified. In the last years, Social Studies was an area of difficult passing rate because candidates come from various programs within the Social Sciences department like psychology, sociology, economics, politics or history and not all shared the same curriculum. Through constant communication, the Department of History opened special courses for students who are not History majors which increased the passing rate in this area (3.5.1). Every year, several candidates obtain the highest scores in the PCMAS, especially in English and Math. Candidates with the highest passing rate are fast hired by private and public schools. During the last three academic years, TPP has had over 50 invitations for recruitment, many from school districts in the United States (3.1.4). Before TPP recommends any completing candidate for licensure or certification, it documents understanding of the expectations of the profession, including codes of ethics, professional standards of practice, and relevant laws and policies. TPP deems obligatory its methodology and clinical experience courses where as well the PRDE professional standards and InTASC standards are discussed and apply. The TPP observation instrument used in the clinical practice is aligned with the PRDE Professional Standards and InTASC standards. Additional codes of ethics are required in the methodology science course before candidates carry out their clinical practice. Candidates read and answer modules through the NEOLMS Operating System and the results are discussed in class. Professionalism and ethics is also discussed throughout the Philosophical Foundations of Education courses since ethics is one of the principle components. Feedback from the PCMAS Survey Question about Teaching Preparation and Teaching Experience over the past three years show that 89% or more rated they are ready to be a teacher; 93% or more rated their teaching experience positive and 86% rated their academic preparation as excellent or more than adequate (3.6.1).