A photo of an empty elementary school classroomHelping provide well-qualified teachers is a task Sacramento State is taking seriously. (File photo)

As California continues to grapple with a shortage of classroom teachers, a newly formed Sacramento State task force is exploring how the University can help tackle the challenge.

The task force will explore ways to improve teacher preparation at Sacramento State and develop a campus-wide commitment to the task of training the region’s future educators. That includes developing a campus identity and clear strategy focused on high-quality teacher preparation.

The panel is comprised of faculty from each of the University’s seven academic colleges as well as a student advising representative, an education student and the chair of the teaching credentials program.

Pia Wong, associate dean of Education and task force co-chair, says the task force's mission is especially critical given that most of the university’s teaching credential programs are post-baccalaureate, not undergraduate, programs.

“In addition to being a good regional partner on solving the teacher shortage, we also want to get the campus to engage with the notion that every department is doing some kind of teacher preparation, whether they know it or not,” says Wong, who is co-chairing the task force with Chevelle Newsome, dean of Graduate Studies.

“We have a lot of expertise, and we make really significant contributions, across all fields, to the region. This task force gives us a chance to reflect on that and then be very explicit about how pivotal our role is in preparing the education workforce.”

Credential students enter the program from a variety of academic majors. For future elementary school teachers, the most common undergraduate majors are child development, liberal studies, psychology, and communication studies. Future high school teachers and special educators come from a range of disciplines and programs.

Four factors are contributing to the statewide shortage, according to Wong: a large number of teacher retirements, an uptick in the school-aged population, declining enrolments in teacher preparation programs, and attrition – the number of teachers who are leaving the profession. Th at exodus of teaching talent, Wong says, underscores the importance of ensuring that students interested in the profession are supported and provided tools they need to succeed.

“We’ve got to prepare more teachers, but we also have to prepare teachers who have the knowledge and skills to stay and thrive in the profession,” she says, adding that systematically supporting future teachers when they begin at Sacramento State will be a key strategy in reaching this goal.

The group’s initial tasks will be to research who is and is not coming to Sacramento State to obtain their credential and why or why not, as well as beginning to explore ways to develop a campus-wide commitment to teacher preparation. The task force alsos will consider:

  • Potential curriculum changes that could streamline the process of obtaining a credential and get qualified teachers into classrooms more quickly.
  • Revamping advising and developing college and career roadmaps for students interested in teaching.
  • Creating events, activities and affinity groups among faculty and staff to identify, encourage, and support potential future teachers.

“It’s actually more complicated to put together an application for a teaching credential program than most people realize, Wong says. "A student takes more tests to get into a credential program, and takes more tests to get out of the program.

“We have to figure out a way to get folks feeling enthusiastic about the profession despite these barriers.”

The task force expects to make specific recommendations at the end of the fall 2018 semester. For more information about Sacramento State’s teaching credential programs, the College of Education page on the University website. – Jonathan Morales