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A Fast Track for Teachers

Education: A new program matches community colleges, Cal State campuses and school districts to shave time off the credentialing process for instructors. It's funded by a $10-million state initiative.

September 10, 2000|MARJORIE HERNANDEZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jake Brodsky had always enjoyed working with children and thought teaching might be the perfect career for him. So when a community college counselor told him about a new program that would reduce the time it takes to become a credentialed teacher, Brodsky signed on.

"You get done a lot faster, it's much cheaper, and you can start teaching much earlier," said the recent Burbank High School graduate.

Through fliers, counselors and word of mouth, Brodsky and about 50 Glendale Community College students discovered "Tutors Today, Teachers Tomorrow," or T4, a product of Gov. Gray Davis' education initiative.

It unites Glendale Community College, Cal State Los Angeles and the Glendale Unified School District in a partnership that will launch community college students on a structured teaching program beginning this fall.

Typically, college students do not begin their classroom training courses until after they earn their bachelor's degrees. Then they take a fifth year of teacher training to get their credentials. The partnerships among community colleges, Cal State campuses and school districts are designed to shave a year off the process.

In their first year of community college, prospective teachers are given a curriculum that will provide financial assistance, mentors, career counseling, guaranteed acceptance into the Cal State system and paid tutoring jobs.

The one-on-one tutoring experience was what attracted Glendale Community College student Jennifer Bond, 20, to the T4 program. The college students tutor children from four Glendale elementary schools, paying particular attention to reading.

"The tutoring aspect will give me the skills that will enable me to become a better teacher," Bond said. "This will actually help me with my future."

The community college students will complete their lower division liberal arts courses and take the California Board of Education Standardized Test, or CBEST, within the first two years. They will finish their last two years of college at Cal State L.A., where they will earn their bachelor's degrees and teaching credentials.

After graduating, students will have priority consideration for teaching positions in the Glendale Unified School District.

"I think it's wonderful to direct students into a structured program that allows them to realize their dreams to become teachers," said Andra Verstraete, program coordinator at the Glendale college.

The T4 program was part of Davis' 1999-2000 state budget initiative that earmarked $10 million for programs that match community colleges with four-year universities to train teachers. The program comes at a time when school districts are plagued by a shortage of credentialed teachers.

At least 260,000 additional kindergarten-through-12th-grade teachers will be needed in California in the next five years because of retirements, class-size reduction and increased enrollment, according to the state Department of Education.

About 13% of teachers across the state are working with emergency credentials that allow them to teach without formal training. In the Los Angeles district, nearly 22% of the teachers do not have regular credentials.

"You don't want a heart doctor opening and working on your heart if in fact he's never taken a course in cardiology," said Dr. Larry Andre, coordinator of the teacher partnership program at Pierce College. "The idea of this program is to speed up the process so we can get more qualified teachers in the classrooms sooner."

More than 50 community colleges competed for shares of the state grant, which ranged from $250,000 to $350,000. Thirty-three were chosen, including six in Los Angeles County.

Besides Glendale, the colleges and their partners are: College of the Canyons, Cal State Bakersfield and the Antelope Valley School District; Pierce College, Cal State Northridge and the Los Angeles Unified School District; Santa Monica College, Cal State Los Angeles and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District; Cerritos College, Cal State Long Beach and the ABC, Bellflower, Downey and Norwalk-La Mirada unified school districts; and Long Beach City College, Cal State Long Beach and the Long Beach Unified School District.

"It's going to be a spectacular program," said Chris McCarthy, executive vice president of Glendale Community College. "I think this is one of the most exciting things to happen in community colleges in years."

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