John L. Watzke


As staffing in Catholic K-12 schools has transitioned to a predominantly lay teaching corps over the past 50 years, a parallel process of secularization has taken place in teacher education programs at Catholic colleges and universities. The tradition of teaching as a vocation in the formation of vowed religious has been replaced by standard programs of educational foundations, course work, and field experiences with a primary emphasis on the issues and needs of public schools. Many factors contribute to this focus in Catholic higher education: financial concerns; teacher candidate preference; state laws; lack of proximity, affiliation, or experience with Catholic schools. Many programs function under a mission to prepare teachers for any school setting, public, private, or parochial, and view an intentional focus on Catholic Education as limiting or debilitating to the professional development of teacher candidates. This article asks the question: can an alternative teacher program based in service to Catholic education prepare teachers to be effective in both parochial and secular settings? The study investigated the professional preparedness of M.Ed. in program teacher candidates (n= 163) working in Catholic Schools and program graduates (n= 137) and these graduates’ principals (n= 112) working in either Catholic or public schools. Results of the administration of a professional preparedness inventory indicated teacher self-reported and principal reported rates at comparable levels to replicated national surveys. Comparison of graduate and principal responses by school context indicated no statistically significant difference for overall measures of preparedness. Specific areas of significant difference were identified in the Catholic school context (higher preparedness rates in curriculum and instruction and questioning and discussion skills) and public school context (higher rates of preparedness in encouraging critical thinking, reflective practice, and use of technology). Discussion focuses on the Catholic school context as a viable alternative for the preparation of teachers for multiple school contexts.

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