The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday that its College of Education and Human Development will partner with Teach For America to create an alternative teacher training program beginning this summer.
The decision comes after months of negotiations between TFA and the University, which were met with criticism from some graduate students in the CEHD and members of Education Minnesota, the state’s largest educators union.
University President Eric Kaler said in an interview Wednesday that he “strongly supports” the decision to partner with TFA.
“I think a student who earns a bachelor’s degree in another field, yet wants an opportunity to be in the classroom, should be able to have the training to go do that in the model that TFA provides,” he said.
The University is currently developing the program, which has to be approved by the Minnesota Board of Teaching before being implemented.
Crystal Brakke, TFA Twin Cities’ executive director, said she’s confident the program will be approved. The Board of Teaching has shown interest in the partnership and encouraged TFA to pursue it, she said.
Through the partnership, at least 40 TFA corps members will participate in an eight-week training program through the University instead of TFA’s national five-week training, according to a University news release.
In addition, TFA corps members will participate in two years of training while working at a school, according to CEHD Associate Dean Deborah Dillon.
Under the agreement, TFA corps members who complete the program will be recommended for licensure and University credit, which can be applied to a University master of education degree.
CEHD Associate Dean Deborah Dillon said the University hasn’t decided yet how many credits would be transferrable to the master of education program or if credits could also be applied to other University degrees.
The University will work with TFA to develop admissions criteria for the new program.
TFA’s own admissions process is very competitive, with a 14 percent acceptance rate nationwide.
After TFA selects a pool of candidates for the program, the University will conduct a second admissions process to choose participants.
Some CEHD graduate students who opposed the partnership when it was first proposed said they’re still not backing down.
In June, 10 graduate students penned an open letter to the University opposing the proposed partnership. In the letter, they said TFA doesn’t adequately prepare teachers for the schools they serve.
More than 200 others, many of whom were affiliated with CEHD, signed the petition.
Erin Dyke, a CEHD graduate student who co-wrote the letter, said she and other graduate students were expecting Wednesday’s announcement.
“We’re feeling frustrated and angry,” she said, “but also ready to dig our heels in and to continue resisting TFA at the U.”
Dyke said the group will continue to organize to help “diminish TFA’s influence at the U.”
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said in a statement that the educators’ union will watch for developments in the partnership.
“We’re hopeful this more rigorous approach will improve the effectiveness of TFA corps members,” she said.