California Colleges Creating New Paths to Being a Teacher
Facing a wave of teacher retirements and increasing pressure to turn out new teachers, universities and school districts are looking to fight state budget cuts by finding new ways to get teachers into the classroom.
Alternatives developed by districts and universities include growing their own teachers out of high school students, luring retirees or helping teacher’s aides jump to full-fledged teacher.
“When you see the retirement data, you see the enormity of the challenge,” said Dr. Harold Levine, dean of the school of education at the University of California-Davis.
UC-Davis’ program focuses on its strengths — math and science — and offers teachers a two-year program that links the credential with a master’s degree. After students earn their credential, they combine classroom work as a teacher with graduate study that uses their teaching as research.
Despite the state’s budget problems, educators can help potential teachers get into a university to earn the qualifications they need, said Dr. Peter Smith, president of California State University, Monterey Bay.
Potential teachers who might want to switch careers are deterred because “they can’t make the financial leap,” Smith said. So universities can use emergency teaching credentials as a way to get these people into the classroom and then build university programs around these students. The CSU system’s Cal State Teach program does that, Smith said, by allowing teachers to go online and study for their credential. The program now has more than 550 teachers enrolled statewide.
Schools and universities are sometimes stymied in their efforts to find teachers because they don’t know their needs or enough about future trends, said Margaret Gaston, executive director of the Santa Cruz-based Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.
The center’s research helped Kern County learn that it needs between 400 and 500 new teachers each year, said Jim Young, a retired chancellor of Kern County Community College and coordinator of the center’s teacher work force project.
Kern’s demand comes from three areas — retirements, teachers who leave the profession, and growth in the county’s population, the study showed. In 2008, Young said, retirements will rise from 150 a year to 275.
The county is focusing on teachers’ aides to help fill the expected loss of teachers, Young said. “We decided we were going to try and grow our own teachers.”
He’s now shepherding 42 aides through their college courses, helping them find scholarships and money to pay for books — a challenge on a teacher’s aide salary, he said.
At Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino, officials look to an even younger source of future teachers. More than 100 students apply each year for 60 slots in a teacher-preparation academy, said Susan Lucey, the program coordinator. Students apply in the second semester of their freshman year. Then, starting in 10th grade, the students in the teaching academy take classes on instructional methods, tutor elementary students and take the courses they’ll need to get into college, Lucey said.
Eventually, the school wants to offer a “round trip ticket” for students who continue toward their credentials — so students could get their college tuition reimbursed if they agreed to return to their old school and teach for a year.
“It’s a good thing for many of our students who wouldn’t be able to afford tuition,” Lucey said. “Most of our students would be considered at-risk.”
— Associated Press
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