Fast Track for Teacher Training
California has a severe teacher shortage. To fill in the gap, thousands of educators who lack classroom experience or who aren’t fully certified are teaching with temporary or emergency credentials.
That’s why the state has launched a new initiative to move prospective teachers through the credentialing process more quickly — and USF is at the forefront of the effort.
USF’s new undergraduate teacher credential program will allow undergraduate students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a credential in four years, saving would-be teachers a year or more in additional schooling.
USF’s four-year program, the development of which was supported by $250,000 in state grants, will enroll its first students this fall. The state predicts that in three years, one of every five teacher candidates will come from programs like USF’s.
“Many students don’t consider a teaching career because they need to find work after college and can’t afford to spend more time in school,” says Mary Coen, administrative director of USF's newly created Undergraduate Teacher Education Center (UTEC), which houses the program. “Our four-year program will attract more prospective teachers and prepare them well, and quickly, to help with this dire teacher shortage.
As part of the program, students will complete course requirements for a typical College of Arts and Sciences major — like history or English — while also taking graduate-level teaching courses at the School of Education and training in Bay Area classrooms.
The intra-college partnership is similar to USF’s groundbreaking dual degree teacher preparation program, a five-year program in which students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years and a master’s degree and teaching credential in one more. USF was one of the first universities in the state to offer such a program over two decades ago.
In both the four- and the five-year programs, students gain hands-on experience in local classrooms with experienced mentor teachers. While the state requires undergraduates to spend 45 hours in a classroom prior to student teaching, USF requires twice that and offers additional opportunities to work in the field.
Grace Wakefield '16, MAT '17, who graduated from the five-year program, says getting classroom experience while in college is critical. Some new teachers find they aren’t suited to the demands of the profession, she says. They end up changing careers, contributing to the teacher shortage.
“USF gives you a taste for teaching,” says Wakefield, who was a student teacher at Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood and is now a fifth-grade teacher there. “That’s really important because then people will know if they enjoy the profession before jumping into the classroom.”