Across the country, schools are facing a common problem: hiring and retaining well qualified teachers. To address the growing national shortage of educators, Green Dot has partnered with California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) to launch the Residency for Equity through Action and Learning (Project REAL). The Department of Education awarded CSUDH a five-year, $7 million grant through the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program to create Project REAL. This residency will create recruit, prepare, place, and retain diverse and highly qualified middle school and high school math, science, and English teachers at Green Dot schools in California.
Addressing the Crisis
The teacher shortage threatens to further weaken our education system; a survey by the Learning Policy Institute found that during the 2017-2018 school year 80% of California school districts had trouble filling positions to begin the school year. In addition to a shrinking pool of applicants, new teachers leave the profession at high rates. In 2018, using national longitudinal data from the Department of Education sponsored Baccalaureate and Beyond study, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education reported that more than 44 percent of new teachers in public and private schools leave teaching within 5 years of entry.
Project REAL seeks to increase the number of graduates entering the teaching profession while addressing the factors that impact attrition rates, such as lack of support and inadequate preparation. Traditionally, a graduate would complete a semester of student teaching, take state exams, and apply for teacher certification. In the case of Project REAL, over 15 months participants earn a preliminary teaching credential and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Built into this model is a mentorship and coaching component, as studies have found that teachers with little or no training leave the profession at twice the rates of teachers with comprehensive support. To ensure residents are supported and prepared to teach in our communities, Project REAL candidates are placed in a year-long residency with a trained master Green Dot teacher. Initially, residents will shadow their mentor teacher and over time take on greater responsibility creating opportunities for coaching, feedback, and support.
Partnership for Student Achievement
Teachers possess the potential to have a powerful and enduring influence on the lives of the students they serve. These professionals can directly affect how students learn, how they develop academically, how they interact with learning, and how they see themselves and the world around them.
For Project REAL, it is critical that this residency create a pipeline of highly effective educators; in other words, teachers who engage all students in differentiated, cognitively challenging lessons while holding students to high expectations in respectful, positive, and safe learning environments. “We must be innovative, because our students deserve for us to be reflective, to be constantly pushing ourselves to make sure that we are constantly thinking through new and creative strategies to ensure their success,” said Annette Gonzalez, Green Dot Chief Academic Officer.
Kamal Hamdan, Director of the California STEM Institute for Innovation and Improvement (CISE) and the principal investigator for Project REAL, has developed and oversaw successful programs like the Urban Teacher Residency (UTR) and the STEM Teacher in Advanced Residency (STAR) at CSUDH. While these previous programs served students in high-need communities in Los Angeles, Project REAL marks the first time that a CSUDH residency program has partnered with a charter school network. “We have a history with Green Dot. We both share this common goal to serve these communities and serve them well; And to level the playing ﬁeld for the children in these communities by offering them an exceptional and high-quality instructional experience delivered by a highly effective teaching force,” said Hamdan.
For Green Dot, Project REAL has been an opportunity to expand pathways into a sustainable and rewarding career in public education. Similarly, Green Dot and CSUDH have both taken hands-on approaches to creating equitable learning experiences in historically underserved communities. To that end, partnering with CSUDH was a natural match.
“This is an exciting opportunity to innovate around teacher preparation and address the teacher shortage that our students have experienced first hand for the last decade. Doing this work alongside Dr. Hamdan and his team, is an honor,” said Samantha Matamoros-Rangel, Green Dot Director of Human Capital.
Investments in Growth
We believe all of our educators should be allowed to cultivate a career pathway that reflects their strengths and interests. We have worked hard to build a range of leadership positions that offer our educators with opportunities to explore various avenues of educational leadership and add layers of experience to their professional practice.
Working with CSUDH, we have been able to expand both our professional development offerings and leadership positions. “A big component of the residency is leveraging the talent that exists in the organization. Through Project REAL we will have new leadership roles for our current teachers who are masters in their professions and opportunities for our school leaders and education team members to teach university classes,” said Gonzalez.
Green Dot educators who participate in these new opportunities will receive external professional development through CSUDH as well as additional compensation. The residency will also provide Green Dot teachers with access to micro credentialing courses in six areas: project-based learning, computer science authorization, literacy, inclusion, fabrication lab, and Next Generation Science Standards.
“When I was a veteran teacher I longed for opportunities to help me improve my teaching practice,” reflected Hamdan. “With Project REAL we will give veteran teachers new opportunities to grow. They’ll be able to reﬁne and enhance their teaching practices while at the same time mentoring and guiding the next generation of teachers.”
As educators we are often seeking new approaches to develop and prepare our students to succeed in the 21st Century workforce, but that simply isn’t enough. If we hope to fulfill the promise of a public school education, districts and schools must explore and adopt new methods to ensure every classroom is led by teachers who possess the capacity to change lives.