Comstock's magazine 1117 - November 2017 - Page 66

n EDUCATION I t was a difficult math problem, and Sacramento City Uni- pipeline established between the district and Sacramento fied School District was stumped. Again. State that offers dual credentials — including special edu- In California’s 13th largest district, about 15 per- cation — to teachers and sets them up with paid jobs in the cent of the 43,000 students (about 6,500) have special district immediately (although this doesn’t guarantee them a needs, but in April, administrators still needed qualified job once they complete their dual credential). teachers for eight special education vacancies. All local re- “Think about how difficult it has been for young college cruitment efforts had been exhausted, officials say. students to find jobs when they ’re done with their educa- Last year, the district recruited 11 teachers from the Phil- tion,” Barrios says. “For us to say, ‘There’s a job waiting for ippines. So with nowhere else to turn, SCUSD once again you,’ I think will create an incentive for students to go into went abroad, recruiting six more teachers from overseas the district and teach.” to solve the district’s immediate need, says Alex Barrios, SCUSD’s chief communications officer. HELP WANTED “Statewide and nationwide, there’s a short supply of spe- The pipeline idea grew out of a question from Dr. Stephanie cial needs teachers,” he says. “You end up having to compete Biagetti, Sac State’s chair of teaching credentials in the Col- with other districts for those teachers. We had to figure out lege of Education: What can we do to bring people into our how to get teachers now.” program and meet the needs of SCUSD? Not everybody is aboard with this global recruitment Both parties agreed to move forward with the cohort. To strategy. For instance, the Sacramento City Teachers Asso- find the right candidates, they heavily advertised and mar- ciation claims the district could have avoided such a move keted the program. More than 100 people came out to the by paying its teachers more. information session. But district officials maintain The pipeline is a two-year it's about basic supply and program, where students demand — a principle of eco- work in classrooms five days a nomics, not an issue of wages. week while taking night class- Now, due to what officials es two days a week. Eleven out call “rigorous recruitment ef- of 18 applicants were accept- forts,” the district has only ed in this first year and have two special education teacher already started working in vacancies left. Officials ex- classrooms as official teach- pect the current pool of 298 ers — fully responsible for special education teachers to planning and implementing — Alex Barrios, chief communications officer, increase after new hires are lessons, grading all student Sacramento City Unified School District processed, Barrios says. work, etc. — with support The teacher shortage is an from a university supervisor ongoing crisis, impacting dis- and the district. Some teach- tricts well beyond Sacramento. In a survey by the Learning ers are in special education and some in general education at Policy Institute and the California School Boards Associa- the elementary and secondary education levels. tion, about 75 percent of 211 districts statewide noted having What’s unique about this program is that during the two- a shortage of teachers last year. Across the country, the hard- year span, students are fully employed by the district with a est hit are large cities and high-poverty schools, with teacher short-term staffing permit, so they start making money much shortages in math and science, and especially special edu- sooner than if enrolled in a traditional two-year program. cation. In the aftermath of the devastating Great Recession This was a key selling point for Dominic Campos. He’d — when teachers were handed pink slips and forced out been in the education field, running various school enrich- — this crisis illustrates what happens when student enroll- ment programs for half a dozen years, but hadn’t gotten his ments increase (projected to grow by 3 million by 2025), credential. Now, as a 30-year-old tax-paying married man, he teacher enrollment programs drop off (by 35 percent) and says going 10 months with no income in a traditional pro- teacher attrition remains high. gram would have been a nightmare. Since 2007, the number of enrolled special needs students “If I had to go all the way until next year to get a teach- in SCUSD has increased by 1,000. The district’s long-term ing position and get paid next October, I don’t know how my plan to prevent future vacancies began in September: a new wife and I would’ve managed,” says Campos, who started co- “Statewide and nationwide, there’s a short supply of special needs teachers ... We had to figure out how to get teachers now.” 66 comstocksmag.com | November 2017