By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Last month we reported how an idea by Elk Grove Education Association member Alexandra Condon became a state law. The law, SB 1291, which allows laid-off teachers to collect unemployment benefits while retraining for hard-to-fill positions, takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.
Kerry Hernandez received a pink slip last year from Ethel Phillips Elementary School in Sacramento, where she had taught for two years. The Sacramento City Teachers Association member didn’t know where to turn. She applied for elementary school teaching positions, but found herself in a long line of pink-slipped teachers.
Then she heard about a program that retrains laid-off teachers to teach hard-to-staff math and science classes. She jumped at the opportunity.
All who enroll in the Foundational Level Math and Science Credential program (FLMSC) for Sacramento City Unified School District employees are carefully screened to make sure they have an aptitude for teaching math and science.
The goal of the program is to put unemployed teachers back to work. The program, a partnership between Sacramento City Unified School District, the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, and CSU Sacramento’s Colleges of Education, Continuing Education, and Natural Science and Mathematics, is funded by a $300,000 grant from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, which pays for course work and classroom time.
CTA-sponsored bill eases financial burden
Hernandez recently received her degree for teaching foundational math, which allows her to teach math at the middle school level and some high school classes. She is applying for math positions throughout her district and neighboring districts, and meanwhile is subbing at her former school.
“The program was wonderful,” she says. “It really prepared us to teach math in a clear, conceptual way.”
She received her single-subject credential in foundational level math by taking two three-unit upper-division undergraduate classes focused on mathematics content, and two classes focused on instructional methodologies in math for middle and high school learners. In addition to passing her courses at CSU Sacramento, she had to pass the Single Subject Math California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET). A traditional single-subject credential for all high school math classes requires an additional CSET test.
Those who earn a single-subject credential in foundational level general science must take two three-unit upper-division undergraduate classes focused on science content, and one class on instructional methods, and pass Single Subject Science CSET I and II tests.
Participants take classes two nights a week for one semester for the foundational credentials, and a few have already found new jobs.
Teachers like Hernandez will have an easier time to participate in these types of programs when the CTA-sponsored bill, SB 1291, takes effect Jan. 1. Teachers laid off because of California’s bruising education funding cuts will be able to collect unemployment benefits while retraining to fill other teaching positions in California’s shortage fields.
Alternative path to induction
The Alternative Induction Program (AIP) component of the FLMSC program allows teachers to clear their credential if they are not teaching full time, which can be a catch-22 situation for some new teachers.
Kate Lowry, for example, graduated from CSU Sacramento in 2010, but she couldn’t land a teaching job. Without a teaching job, she couldn’t clear her credential with the two-year Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) induction program. This must be done within five years of certification. Without BTSA training, she is less desirable as a teaching prospect when applying for jobs.
The AIP allowed her to have BTSA training from a district mentor while being a long-term sub and teaching summer school. In most cases, subs and summer school teachers are not eligible for induction via BTSA training.
“When I found out about this program, I was jumping up and down,” says Lowry. “I just turned in my portfolio, and I should receive my clear credential in just a few weeks. Without this, I would be worrying about being able to clear my credential. Now I don’t have to worry about that. And the fact that I didn’t have to pay for the program was extremely beneficial, because I don’t have a regular job.”
An offer of hope
The Foundational Level Math and Science Credential program showcases what partnerships between districts and universities can accomplish together in combating the effects of budget cuts and teacher layoffs, says co-director and CSU Sacramento Department of Teaching Credentials chair Pia Wong.
“It breaks your heart to think that people with so much commitment and schooling can’t get a job through no fault of their own. We are proud to offer some of them a chance to stay in teaching,” says Wong.
A few of the graduates have already found employment as math and science teachers.
“The teachers we work with are hopeful, young, energetic and happy for this opportunity,” says Wong, a California Faculty Association member. “They are now more attractive candidates for hard-to-fill jobs - and better teachers.”