Program gives new teachers time to earn while they learn

Program gives new teachers time to earn while they learn

(Calif.) Perhaps as much as any of his colleagues in district administration, John Glover, founder and CEO of a small network of charter schools in east San Jose, has a tough time filling teacher vacancies.

For one, California is suffering with a shortage of well-trained and fully credentialed teachers, and as a charter school serving a largely low-income community with a lot of English learners—candidates are hard to come by. The second problem is the cost of housing in the Bay Area.

“I read someplace that the median price of a home in the U.S. is about $197,500 which is the same as the median down payment on a house in San Jose,” he said in an interview. “So we had to get creative when we thought about the teacher pipeline.”

Glover’s answer for Alpha Public Schools, which serves about 1,600 K-12 students at four sites, was to establish a novel two-year teacher residency program.

They started the program two years ago by recruiting individuals living within the east San Jose community that had an interest in becoming a teacher and may have already been working in a classroom. Applicants work full-time at an Alpha school during the day and at night take preparation classes at the REACH Institute, based in Oakland.

The program started with a class of four in 2015-16. This year, Alpha has 10 residency teachers. A key part of the program, Glover said, was assigning each resident teacher with a veteran, mentor teacher who would share the classroom for an entire school term.

“At the beginning of the year, the resident teacher would be doing a lot of observing or maybe working with small groups of students rather than a full class,” he explained. “Over time, it becomes more of a co-teaching environment. The lead teacher would always be in the room, sometimes teaching, sometimes observing.”

The inability of many districts to fill teacher vacancies has forced administrators to hire educators that are not fully credentialed. Last year, the state issued more than 10,000 intern credentials, permits and waivers to help districts close the gap.

Part of the problem is that college-age students do not seem to be as attracted to the teaching profession today as they had in the past. Before the recession in 2008, as many as 50,000 students were enrolled in California teacher preparation classes. Last year only about half the number were working toward a degree and certification.

Hiring is especially difficult for districts that need math and science teachers as well as those qualified to teach students with disabilities.

The Alpha project is being supported by grants from the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and the Sobrato Family Foundation, but Glover said the charter has taken on some of the expenses as well.

Although the program isn’t specifically aimed at existing classroom employees like paraprofessionals, the classified employees are coveted applicants.

Just this month, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing finalized $20 million in grants to support current school employees in the pursuit of a teaching credential.

Public policy experts have long identified classified employees as a potential source of new teachers because many already have some post-secondary training and many also have shown a commitment to serving children.

The CTC awarded grant money under this category to 25 programs, which will be used to help individuals pay for tuition and related training costs.