Molly Serra '10 (right), now a graduate student in the School of Education's dual degree program, is a "teacher resident" at El Dorado Elementary School in San Francisco.
The University of San
School of Education is at the forefront of President Barack Obama’s higher
education reform initiative to have universities and local schools work more
closely to better prepare, recruit, and retrain teachers.
The initiative is aimed at urban schools where close to 50
percent of new teachers leave the profession after three years, as compared
with 20 percent leaving teaching after three years nationwide.
Under a three-year $1.4 million AmeriCorps grant initiative,
USF, working with the San Francisco Education Fund, Stanford University, the San Francisco Unified School
District, and the United Educators of San Francisco, have created three teacher
academies in “hard to staff” SFUSD schools.
“Research indicates that more experienced teachers and more
prepared teachers are more effective in terms of pupil achievement, and
research also indicates that urban youth are the most likely to be taught by
inexperienced and under-prepared teachers,” said Peter Williamson, USF
assistant professor of teacher education, who is leading the USF effort. “This
program aims to solve this problem by providing people who are committed to
teaching in these schools with the best preparation to be successful.”
Graduates of the program are guaranteed jobs with the
district but must commit to work in the district for at least three years.
Similar teacher residency programs in Chicago and Boston have demonstrated their
effectiveness in preparing highly qualified teachers who stay in the profession
longer than those who have less training, something that Williamson anticipates
with USF’s efforts at SFUSD in coming years.
In this, the program’s first year, 11 first-year USF School
of Education students and four Stanford students attend classes at their
respective universities while working in the classroom under the guidance of
specially chosen and highly qualified mentor teachers for an entire school
Students receive a tuition discount, an $11,700 AmeriCorps
annual stipend, and graduate with a preliminary California Teaching Credential
and a master’s degree.
provided me with a unique opportunity to work intimately in a public school
while earning my credential,” said Reese Ornellas, a first-year student at
USF’s School of Education who developed an appreciation for education while
teaching English in China.
Ornellas, who came to the profession from the nonprofit
sector where he worked with adults with developmental disabilities, said that
the AmeriCorps stipend has allowed him to attend school full-time while
simultaneously working with a dedicated master teacher.