Residency Thrives Amid SFUSD Teacher Shortage August 2015

With nearly 50 teaching positions still left to fill by the Aug. 17 beginning of the school year, the San Francisco Unified School District is touting at least one strategy it has deemed successful in recruiting educators: its teacher residency program.

This school year, 32 teacher residents — more than ever before — have enrolled in the San Francisco Teacher Residency program, an effort that aims to recruit, prepare and support teachers in high needs schools and subject areas of the SFUSD, said Jonathan Osler, the program’s director.

“We are striving to fill a very articulate need from district leadership,” Osler explained.

The program, modeled after a medical residency, started in the 2010-11 school year as a collaboration among the school district, United Educators of San Francisco teachers union, University of San Francisco and Stanford University.

While taking evening classes at either USF or Stanford, teacher residents spend a year learning to teach in an SFUSD classroom under the guidance of a cooperating teacher. At the end of the school year, the resident is usually just several credits shy of a master’s degree and has earned a teaching credential.

The resident is also guaranteed a job at a public school in The City in exchange for a three-year commitment to teach in the district, proving some job stability for a recent graduate as well as consistency for the SFUSD. Residents also only have to pay about half their tuition for the year.

“In an era where there are a lot of other professional opportunities for college graduates, and because San Francisco is known for being an expensive place … we’re grateful to be able to provide a more affordable route into teaching,” Osler said.

The district’s highly publicized teacher shortage is not unique to California, or even to the U.S., as the past decade has seen a nationwide drop in those entering the profession. But the issue is apparently exacerbated in The City by the skyrocketing cost of living.

The situation even called for measures unprecedented in recent years, including a letter from Superintendent Richard Carranza in July to teachers encouraging them to recruit candidates, and year-round recruitment programs implemented by the SFUSD throughout the past school year.

“It’s been a topic in the forefront of my mind,” Tina Yang, a San Francisco native who will begin her teacher residency at El Dorado Elementary School this month, said of the housing prices in The City. “A lot of my friends who are from San Francisco have just decided that even though we grew up here, it’s not possible for us to live here and work here.”

Meanwhile, the district remains confident it will have enough teachers to fill the classrooms of the more than 130 schools in the district. In fact, at this time last year, some 80 positions were still vacant, SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

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