U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced the launch of the Western Governors University's (WGU) new online competency-based Teachers College, which offers accredited certificates and undergraduate and graduate academic degrees for current and prospective teachers.

"The No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] calls for highly qualified teachers in every classroom because that is a critical factor in ensuring student academic success," Paige said. "We need to open the classroom door to the thousands of midcareer professionals who could make excellent teachers. The Teachers College will be invaluable in that effort because a Web-based program offers working adults the flexibility to pursue standards-based course work at their own pace and schedule."

Online courses also provide learning opportunities to teachers and other professionals in rural and remote areas of the country who might not have access to traditional on-campus learning.

The university provides a creative path to alternative teaching certification. Its approach to education is based on competency in critical knowledge and skills measured by assessments not the number of hours spent in a college classroom. Rather than developing its own courses, the university collaborates with colleges, universities, corporations and training organizations across the United States to make the best use of distance learning materials available to students through the Internet.

The online catalog contains about 1,200 courses from 45 partnering institutions. Programs are tailored to teachers' aides or paraprofessionals, uncertified teachers and second-career professionals transitioning to teaching. Teachers College participants may be eligible for federal financial aid.

In September 2001, the U.S. Department of Education awarded WGU a $10 million five-year Star Schools grant to help develop and acquire educational programming for preservice and in-service teacher education programs and to operate and maintain the existing Internet telecommunications system of WGU. In addition to the Star Schools grant, funding from foundations and corporate partners, as well as federal teacher education grants, supports the College.

WGU Teachers College will provide teacher certification and advanced degrees in reading, math, science, technology and English as a second language (ESL).

U.S. Department of Education