Future teachers are schooled in quality, community in new grant-funded program
Ismael Rosario ’97 MA is a veteran Lincoln High School math teacher and a mentor to CSULA’s Urban Teacher Residency Program student Tiffany Hee. Meet the teachers in the program below.
All eyes in education will be focused on Cal State L.A. this year as the University rolls out into the classroom its first cohort of 20 educators trained in a pioneering education model that draws inspiration from medical residency programs.
Propelled by a five-year $8.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the University’s Charter College of Education launched the Los Angeles Urban Teacher Residency Program in summer 2010 to strengthen teacher preparation and student academic achievement. In a departure from traditional teacher training programs, the 15-month graduate-level program couples an intensive training and community support program with a complete school year of working as resident-teachers.
“We knew going into this that it was a big endeavor,” said Diane Haager, professor of special education and counseling, and the co-principal investigator for the grant. “But we really wanted to reconceptualize our approach to teacher education and we thought that this would give us an opportunity to take our understanding of teacher preparation and meld it with a new direction.”
Students in the residency program have been placed in six middle and high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The district is one partner in the grant, which also brings together the Center for Collaborative Education, the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and three community organizations. While in the classroom, resident-teachers will receive a $20,000 stipend for their work. (Hear from some of the resident-teachers below.)
The goal is to prepare teachers ready to enter high-needs Los Angeles public schools and teach math, science and special education. Upon completion of the program, students are asked to commit to teaching for three years in the district.
“This is really a different approach because they are learning in-residence,” said Professor of Curriculum and Instruction A. Dee Williams, who is also curriculum director for the grant. Williams explained that while working in the classroom, students will also be reporting to classes and sessions on campus two nights a week, and working with community organizations to better understand their students and families, and the environment in which they are teaching.
“They are surrounded by more support, for a longer period of time…and that will help to make them well-versed in the community and the tools needed to access a community even if they go elsewhere,” he said.
At the end of the five-year grant, program officials said they hope to have cumulatively enrolled and trained 250 teachers—all of whom will graduate having earned a teaching credential and a master’s degree in education. Students admitted through the rigorous candidate selection process are expected to already have bachelor’s degrees in their teaching disciplines.
The University’s Urban Teacher Residency Program was developed from the residency model in medical training because research supports the benefits of learning in practical and tangible ways, program officials said. Research also shows that teacher quality is a key factor in improving student achievement.
“It’s been really great because we are working in tandem,” said Daniel Shalk, who is working as a teacher-resident at Stern Math and Science School. “I’m not just a glorified TA. You want the students to see you as a teacher—and they do.”
Shalk’s classmate and colleague at Stern, resident-teacher Su Hyun Cho added: “The most wonderful thing about this program is the community that comes with it. It’s not just the community of the school, the students and the organizations, but among the resident-teachers. It’s a rare thing, but I am sure that even after we become teachers in the future, we will still share notes, lesson plans and experiences from the classroom. And that’s a great resource for a new teacher.”
Cal State L.A. was one of only five Teacher Quality Partnership grantees selected from a pool of 17 California applicants. Three of the four other successful proposals came from California State University campuses—Chico; Dominguez Hills; and a joint effort by Bakersfield, Monterey Bay and San Luis Obispo. Nationally, only 28 of 172 proposals were funded.
“Both at the federal and local level, they are taking a good hard look at this model to see if this could be a more effective approach to teacher education,” Haager said.
Resident-teacher Su Hyun Cho and program director Diane Haager help a student with his math problem.