SOE Leads National Reforms

by Edward Carpenter

The University of San Francisco’s 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 year.

Students receive a tuition discount, an $11,700 AmeriCorps annual stipend, and graduate with a preliminary California Teaching Credential and a master’s degree.

AmeriCorps has 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.