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San Francisco State University, Partners Innovate to Address Teacher Shortage

California, like many states in the nation, faces a critical shortage of teachers. As California recovers from the Great Recession, teacher hiring needs have steadily increased from a recent low of 10,360 in 2011-2012 to 21,482 in 2015-2016. During the same period, the number of new credentials issued has decreased to a low of fewer than 14,000 candidates in the 2014-2015 school year. This reduction in productivity is reflective of the downward trend in enrollment in teacher preparation programs.

In response to concerns regarding an increasing number of teaching positions filled by educators without teaching credentials and educators who were teaching outside of their area of expertise, leaders from the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) engaged with local universities, community colleges, and district superintendents to pursue solutions. The Graduate College of Education at San Francisco State University (SFSU) seized the opportunity to engage as a full partner with SMCOE, having already initiated internal problem-solving conversations around the decrease in credential program enrollment. The new partnership with SMCOE provided the opportunity to consider causes of the teacher shortage on a larger scale and to engage with school and community partners to collaboratively develop sustainable, innovative pathways to teaching.

Considering the broader causes of the teacher shortage and factors that can deter quality candidates has been a key benefit of the collaborative. The pathway to teaching is one that includes recruitment, preparation, and retention through ongoing supports. Partners in the SMCOE network have mapped out connected routes with clear entry points at a variety of junctures for those interested in entering the teaching profession. Thinking and acting as a K-16 partnership, high school districts in San Mateo County are actively building a high school Career Technical Education Pathway in Education (CTEPE) with dual enrollment opportunities with a local community college and a clear connection to SFSU.  Additionally, new pathways are under development for future teachers through building integrated undergraduate programs and support for school district classified staff, with funding from state and regional agencies.

This network-based organizational structure is a transformative example of how K-12 districts and universities can work together to address challenges facing public education, such as the teacher shortage, by engaging stakeholders with varying perspectives on the problem to develop innovative solutions. CTEPE is a replicable model for mitigating local shortages that can be tailored to meet the needs of districts and universities in California and beyond.

This collaboration is one of several successful teacher-development initiatives involving SFSU and K-12 partners. Others address key local priorities through a focus on clinical practice, such as the STEM HOUSE Undergraduate Clinical Experience in Elementary STEM Education; Project ExCEL: Elementary Science and Engineering in Local Contexts; and the ELLISA Project: English Language and Literacy Integration into Subject Areas.

These three projects and two others were recently highlighted in an AACTE webinar held November 15, “Advancing Science and Math Teaching in Diverse Elementary Classrooms: A Clinical Practice Model at San Francisco State University.” More information about these projects can be found in the archived webinar recording and presentation slides.

Daina Lujan is a principal in the Millbrae Elementary School District and a school board trustee in the South San Francisco Unified School District. Eurania Isabel Lopez is director of the Student Resource Center, Judith Munter is dean and professor, and Timothy Weekes is a postdoctoral researcher in the Graduate College of Education at San Francisco State University.

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