pipeline partnership

Combined residency programs promise a ‘deep bench’ of teachers for Colorado

PHOTO: Nic Garcia

AURORA — Lily Wool is surrounded by dozens of kindergartners counting items in a jar.

Like the students, she’s learning valuable lessons — in this case, that students learn at different paces. While some can easily count to seven, others need a number line as a crutch.

Wool isn’t the classroom’s assigned teacher. She’s a member of the state’s oldest teacher-residency program, Stanley Teacher Prep, which will merge with the Boettcher Teacher Residency program to create Colorado’s largest teacher-preparation program of its kind.

The Public Education and Business Coalition, which runs the Boettcher program, announced the merger Wednesday.

Residency programs, while not new, are in vogue. They place aspiring teachers in well-run and effective classrooms to learn the practical lessons of teaching while they earn a master’s degree and teacher licenses from a university.

Residency programs, which usually run two years, offer a stark contrast to the traditional four-year program teacher college model, which usually only requires a semester of student teaching.

In its first year, 130 teachers-in-residence will enroll in the joint Boettcher-Stanley program. The program should grow to 150 by the 2016-2017 school year, said Rosann Ward, PEBC’s president.

“We’re creating a deep bench of teachers for Colorado,” she said.

Most graduates from the programs stay in the classroom for at least eight years. That’s a contrast to national surveys that find half of all new teachers leave within three years.

Colorado’s teacher turnover rate, which measures how many educators either left their classroom for a different teaching position or left the profession altogether, reached a 10-year high of 17 percent in 2014. Another report found fewer Colorado high school students are entering traditional teacher colleges.

But a Colorado Department of Education official said there’s little evidence that Colorado is part of a national teacher shortage — yet.

“We haven’t seen that much change over the last three years in the amount of licenses we issue,” said Katy Anthes, executive director of the department’s educator effectiveness office.

Finding teachers for subjects such as math or special education can be difficult. Rural schools also usually have a harder time drawing applicants, Anthes said.

“It’s a complex issue that breaks around subject area and geography,” she said.

Supporters of teacher-residency programs, including Tollgate principal Laurie Godwin, said the programs benefit students.

Teachers who enter the classroom through a teacher-prep program can be better prepared on their first day because they’ve spent so much time in a classroom already and have a wide network of support throughout the year.

“If we can train more teachers at higher levels in Colorado, we can close the achievement gap,” Godwin said. “But it starts with teachers.”

(Disclosure: Chalkbeat Colorado began as a program of the PEBC.)

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Lily Wool as Lily Woods. 

union power

Charter teachers won big in nation’s first strike. What now?

PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat
Teachers from Acero charter schools in Chicago protest stalled negotiations Oct. 24, 2018, as they readied to vote on authorizing a strike.

Some 500 unionized teachers joined in the nation’s first charter strike last week, and succeeded in negotiating wage increases, smaller class sizes and a shorter school day. Their gains could foreshadow next year’s citywide contract negotiations — between the Chicago Teachers Union, with its contract expiring in June, and Chicago Public Schools.

“The issue of class size is going to be huge,” said Chris Geovanis, the union’s director of communications. “It is a critically important issue in every school.”

Unlike their counterparts in charters, though, teachers who work at district-run schools can’t technically go on strike to push through a cap on the number of students per class. That’s because the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act defines what issues non-charter public school teachers can bargain over, and what issues can lead to a strike.

An impasse on issues of compensation or those related to working conditions, such as length of the school day or teacher evaluations, could precipitate a strike. But disagreements over class sizes or school closures, among other issues, cannot be the basis for a strike.

The number of students per class has long been a point of contention among both district and charter school teachers.

Educators at Acero had hopes of pushing the network to limit class sizes to 24-28 students, depending on the grade. However, as Acero teachers capped their fourth day on the picket line, they reached an agreement with the charter operator on a cap of 30 students — down from the current cap of 32 students.

Andy Crooks, a special education apprentice, also known as a teacher’s aide, at Acero’s Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz school and a member of the teachers bargaining team, said that even having two fewer students in a classroom would make a huge difference.

“You really do get a lot more time with your students,” Crooks said. “And if you are thinking about kindergarten in particular, two less 5-year-olds really can help set the tone of the classroom.”

In district-run schools, classes are capped at 28 students in kindergarten through third grade, and at 31 students in fourth through sixth grade. But a survey by the advocacy group Parents 4 Teachers, which supports educators taking on inequality, found that during the 2017-2018 school year, 21 percent of K-8 classrooms had more students than district guidelines allowed. In 18 elementary school classrooms, there were 40 or more students.

The issue came up at last week’s Board of Education meeting, at which Ivette Hernandez, a parent of a first-grader at Virgil Grissom Elementary School in the city’s Hegewisch neighborhood, said her son’s classes have had more than 30 students in them. When the children are so young and active — and when they come into classrooms at so many different skill levels — “the teachers can’t handle 30 kids in one class,” she told the board.

Alderman Sue Garza, a former counselor, accompanied Hernandez. She also spoke before the board about classroom overcrowding — worrying aloud that, in some grades at one school in particular, the number of students exceeded the building’s fire codes. (Board chair Frank Clark said a district team would visit the school to ensure compliance fire safety policies.)

While the Chicago Teachers Union aren’t technically allowed to strike over class sizes, the union does have a history of pushing the envelope when it comes to bargaining.

Back in 2012, when the Chicago Teachers Union last went on strike, they ended up being able to secure the first limit on class sizes in 20 years because the district permitted the union to bargain over class size.

They also led a bargaining campaign that included discussion over racial disparities in Chicago education and school closures, arguing that these trends impacted the working conditions of teachers.

“Even if you can’t force an employer to bargain over an issue, you can push them to bargain over the impact of an issue,” Bob Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, explained.

The Chicago Teachers Union also emerged from its 2012 negotiations with guarantees of additional “wraparound services,” such as access to onsite social workers and school counselors.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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