NYC Teaching Fellows vs Teaching Collaborative

Two of the more well-known alt cert teaching programs in NYC have more in common than not.

Applications for the 2023 cohort of the NYC Teaching Collaborative are open, and I was happy to hear that several substitute teachers that I’m in touch with are considering pursuing their teaching certifications to teach in the NYC DOE. There are multiple alternate certification pathways for educators who didn’t follow the traditional bachelor’s in education to initial teaching license pipeline, and two of the more well-known alt cert programs in NYC are the Collaborative and the NYC Teaching Fellows.

Both programs fall under the purview of the Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality (TRQ), and they’re actually fairly similar in how they’re structured. Both programs have a series of Skill Building Sessions, that allow teacher candidates to practice essential skills to be successful in the classroom. Teacher candidates in both programs complete a field experience in a NYC school while also preparing to attend graduate school for a master’s degree in education, all while working on the state certification exams, required workshops, and more that go into obtaining a transitional B teaching certification.

The biggest difference between both programs is how the program timelines are structured. Collaborative Partner teachers have weekly skill-building sessions spread throughout the spring semester while completing 4 months of field experience at NYC schools. By necessity, the Fellows condenses this timeline so that preservice training (PST) takes place during the DOE’s summer term.

If I had to pick, I would say that the Collaborative offers a better field experience for teacher candidates. Getting to spend 4 months learning and growing as an apprentice teacher was a hugely beneficial experience. I was able to gradually take on more responsibility for the classes that my Collaborative Coach was teaching, and the experience felt truly meaningful. I felt well-versed in lesson planning and facilitation by the end of my field experience, and even felt like I developed a decent tool belt of classroom management philosophies and strategies to build on. PST for the Collaborative was stressful in a different way that I imagine the Fellows’ PST to be, although I believe that candidates in either program more than earn their keep in their preservice experience.

In contrast, the Fellows gives their candidates about a month work of hands on classroom experience in summer school. I think it’s safe to say that any classroom experience is helpful for a teacher candidate, but I’m not sure that summer school is as beneficial as working in the classroom during the “regular” school year. On the flipside, Teaching Fellows don’t have to suffer nearly as much of a financial blow as Collaborative Partner Teachers do, given that the Fellows takes place during summer school.

In the grand scheme of things, both programs are more alike than not. We’re even given the same packet on the job search process, including a list of eligible schools that we’re able to take jobs at. The main difference between both programs comes down to how PST is structured. I enjoyed the extended field experience of the Collaborative, but the financial situation ($6000 paid across 5-6 months) was a sore point for many in my cohort. Many of us only made it work by living with family or a partner, savings, and working a second job. Was it worth it? I thought so. At the same time, the Fellows program provides a far more compelling option if, like the vast majority of New Yorkers, teacher candidates can’t afford to live in poverty for months.

I heard from an in-service teacher that the Collaborative’s program was created to address a concern about quality of training offered by the Fellows’ month of PST. I don’t know if there’s an actual basis for this claim, but it certainly makes sense to me. I couldn’t imagine squashing my 4 month field experience down into the month or so that Teaching Fellows get, but I do wonder how much someone that’s brand new to the classroom can actually learn in a month.

Either way, both programs have proponents and detractors alike. I myself had a good (not great, but also not terrible) experience in the Collaborative. By DOE standards, good/decent isn’t too bad once you’ve heard horror stories of principals who’ve successfully derailed the livelihoods of early-career educators, i.e. a discontinuance. A quick Google search of the programs will bring up some not-so-flattering anecdotes (particularly for the Fellows). There may very well be some truth to them, but I think everyone should do their own due diligence, including speaking to current and former program participants alike.

The Collaborative gave me a pathway to teaching; to do work that I find a tremendous amount of professional and personal satisfaction in. I’ll always be appreciative of that, and I truly hope that both programs continue to grow by listening to participant feedback and seeking to do the right thing for teacher candidates in our most high-need license areas. The program worked fairly well for me, but I know fellow Partner Teachers who were downright miserable and/or frustrated with their experience.