Academic journal article Education

California Mini-Corps: Developing Quality Teachers for 40 Years

Academic journal article Education

California Mini-Corps: Developing Quality Teachers for 40 Years

Article excerpt

Introduction

One of the most effective programs for preparing culturally diverse future teachers is the California Mini-Corps Program. Although the program has existed since 1967, very little has been written about the influence California Mini-Corps has had on both the teaching force in California and on the migrant children that have been the beneficiaries of its service. It is ironic that with the clamoring at local and national levels for effective ways to prepare future teachers for diversity (Duarte, 2000; Garcia, 1999; Recruiting New Teachers, 2003; United States Department of Education, 2001), we have had an extremely effective, albeit under utilized model within our midst. Embedded within traditional teacher preparation programs in numerous institutions throughout California, the Mini-Corps project focuses on the development of a well prepared, ethnically diverse and culturally sensitive teacher force. This program could be a replicable model for traditional teacher preparation programs.

The dual goals accomplished by early supervised field-based programs like California Mini-Corps are 1) the academic assistance provided to students by pre-service teachers and 2) the professional development of future teachers who receive valuable monitored classroom experience in an apprenticeship environment. Writing about the importance of utilizing field-based models for teaching, Vogel (1988) stated that "By the time these college students reach student teaching they are seasoned and practiced professionals committed to quality performance" (p. 5). Early field-based programs tend to have similar characteristics which include (a) early "hands-on" classroom experience, (b) courses taught in conjunction with the experience, (c) a collaborative effort among the institution of training, the school personnel, and the college supervisor, and (d) pre-service and in-service components. In effect, teacher preparation becomes a "5 year" versus a "5th year" endeavor that allows future teachers the opportunity to hone their pedagogical content skills and prepares them for the social and academic realities of the classroom. Like a simulation where the participant receives corrective feedback throughout, pre-service teachers in early field experience are shaped by the various supervising teachers providing coaching, input and positive modeling of teaching strategies. The eventual result is a first year teacher who is more confident than typical first year teachers in facing the challenges of today's classrooms.

The purpose of this article is to: a) describe the California Mini-Corps Model for teacher preparation, b) show the influence Mini-Corps pre-service teachers have on the academic progress of migrant students and c) discuss the potential for program replication. Specifically, the intent of this research is to examine the Mini-Corps model. How does the program work? Is the program effective in preparing quality teachers? What kind of influence, if any, do Mini-Corps teacher candidates have on the academic skills of the migrant students according to classroom teachers? Is it feasible to embed or replicate the program in mainstream higher education teacher preparation programs?

The California Mini-Corps Teacher Preparation Model

California Mini-Corps has been developing teachers and providing role models since 1967. Patterned after the Peace Corps Program, mini-corps was created to provide supplemental assistance to school districts that had a high proportion of students from migrant farm laborer families. The primary goals of the mini-corps program are to provide instructional assistance to migrant students in public schools and to increase the number of professional bilingual cross-cultural teachers in California. The California Mini-Corps Program currently operates in 25 colleges including the community college, California State University and University of California systems.

Historically, establishing collaborative partnerships between higher education institutions and public schools has been a challenge (Hadley, 2000). …

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