Monterey Peninsula Unified School District receives $500K to recruit, train new teachers

The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District announced Wednesday that it received over half a million dollars from the state to support and expand its teacher residency program.

The district received $575,000 from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to expand its one-year, intensive residency program in partnership with the Alder Graduate School of Education with the goal of diversifying its workforce.

“Like many districts in California, the majority of our student population are students of color, and the majority of our teaching population are Caucasian,” said the district’s superintendent, PK Diffenbaugh. “There’s a lot of research that points to the importance of having teachers who reflect the diversity of the student population.”

The district partnered with the Alder Graduate School of Education in 2018 to create a residency program with the goal of diversifying the workforce, recruiting new teachers from within the community and retaining staff.

“Because of the cost of living on the Peninsula, we hire between 100 and 150 teachers a year, which is about 20% of our teachers turnover each year,” Diffenbaugh explained. “So the residency model is widely regarded as a high-quality, high-retention model of training the pipeline into the system, and it was one that would meet multiple goals we had.”

Candidates for the residency program are picked through a highly rigorous selection process. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree to apply and complete a full day of interviews and hands-on assessments. Diffenbaugh explained that the program is extremely selective because the district is investing a lot of time and money into the candidates’ success. After the residents graduate, they are usually hired and commit to teaching for four years in the district.

Residents within the program receive their master’s degree and teaching credential in just 12 months. This year’s program includes 21 residents, but Sarah Hudson — the district’s director of teaching development — explained that each year’s cohort varies from 16 to 20 residents in the program.

Each resident is partnered with a mentor teacher within the district, who guides them through the program and co-teaches with them during the school year. While the district residency portion of the program is free, the program’s residents pay for the graduate school portion.

Hudson is responsible for instructing the residents, observing them every other week throughout the school year and providing them with direct feedback based on the California teaching standards.

She described the grant as pivotal because of the high cost of living in the area and the time-intensive requirements of the program.

“We do recognize that it’s such a huge time commitment and there’s really not a lot of time to work as well,” she explained. “So this grant that we just received increases not only the stipend for the residents but also for the mentor teachers.”

All of the $575,000 grant money will go toward increasing stipends for mentors and residents within the program. The living stipend for residents will increase from $15,000 previously to $37,000 and the mentors’ stipend will increase from $2,000 previously to $5,000.

Diffenbaugh explained that one of the barriers for recruiting candidates to the program has been the high cost of living in the area and the previous small living stipend of $15,000. Many candidates couldn’t financially afford working full time for such a small income.

According to the district, in a recent survey of current cohort applicants, many indicated withdrawing their program application due to financial reasons, such as rent, supporting a family or making ends meet during the residency year.

“It’s really removing that barrier of someone who just really couldn’t make it work financially,” Diffenbaugh said of the increased living stipend. “We’re hopeful that in time — right now we serve 20 residents, but can we grow that to 40? Can we grow that to 60? Which will really help to multiply the number of diverse teachers entering our system every year.”

The California state budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in July 2021 included a total of $350 million in funding for competitive grants to support residency and teacher preparation programs similar to Monterey Peninsula Unified School District’s.

A total of 17 school districts in California received the 2021 Teacher Residency Expansion Grant, which provides funding to districts to recruit and train a diverse teacher workforce and teachers in designated shortage fields including: special education, bilingual education, computer science, technology, engineering, mathematics and kindergarten, including transitional kindergarten.

Diffenbaugh said that the residency program has allowed the district to retain more than 90% of new teachers in the program, specifically because of the training and support they receive during the full year of instruction.

“We have been close to meeting our recruitment and graduation targets each year of graduating residents thanks to the residency program,” said Hudson in a district press release. “Of our 55 residents over three years, we have retained 50 of them as teachers in MPUSD in the school year following their residency year.”

Contributed by local news sources

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