Fresno teachers get a master’s degree to teach dual enrollment


By this summer, more than 100 high school teachers will be eligible to teach dual-enrollment classes in California’s Central San Jaoquin Valley, through a two-year pilot program aimed at creating equity between rural and urban schools. .

The Teacher Development Teacher Master’s Program journey began in the Fresno area and is funded by just over $1.5 million from the Fresno-Madera K-16 Collaboration, paying for high school teachers obtain their master’s degrees to teach university courses on their campuses.

Three cohorts completed the program, with the first starting in January 2021 and the last ending in June. Fifty-six teachers of mathematics and 61 teachers of English will have obtained their master’s degree.

Teachers are located throughout the valley in Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings, Merced, and Kern counties. Fresno Unified sent the most teachers to the program with 71, Clovis sent 24, Central four and Sanger eight.

The teachers chose either a simplified master’s degree in English from National University or in mathematics from Fresno Pacific University.

The English and math offerings for the pilot program were intentional, said John Spevak, former vice president of Merced College. He is now Regional Manager of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium. The goal is for students in the master’s program to teach math and English at the college level in their schools.

“Often the biggest hurdle for (high school) students progressing is completing their college-level English and math courses,” he told the Education Lab.

This problem spurred legislation such as AB 705 and 1705, which reduced college remedial courses by placing students directly into college-level math and English to speed up their time to earn a degree.

Spevak said eliminating them could open an easier path to college.

“A lot of times those are the two biggest hurdles for a young person to succeed in college anyway,” he said.

What is dual registration?

When a high school student takes a dual-enrollment course, they earn community college credit upon successful completion, as if they had taken the actual course in college. Some students have taken enough to earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from high school.

The Central San Joaquin Valley is one of the largest areas in the state with the fewest college graduates, according to the US Census Bureau. On average, adults with higher levels of education have higher annual incomes than those who never graduated from high school or went to college.

According to a recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California, dual enrollment has been on the rise across the state. More than 112,000 high school students in the class of 2020 had taken at least one course. That’s a 54% increase from the 2015-2016 year, according to the report.

Several studies indicate that dual enrollment is beneficial for students, helping them maintain high GPAs and get into and stay in college. The researchers found that dual enrollment particularly benefits students from socioeconomically disadvantaged households, although the benefits may be smaller for those from affluent backgrounds.

Yet there are racial and ethnic disparities, according to the PPIC report. Although first-generation students tend to enroll in slightly more courses and earn more transferable units, black and Latino students who take dual-enrollment courses take fewer transferable courses and have lower GPAs. to that of white and Asian students.

According to Ben Duran, executive director of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, education officials in the valley have realized that the largest equity gap for dual enrollment is between rural and urban schools.

“Dual listing is a way to create equity, if you will, across the board,” Duran said.

“It allows a kid from a tiny high school 30 miles from Fresno to be able to take the same classes as a kid from Bullard High School…because they can take it often on their own campuses.”

Schools understand that there are benefits to offering college courses to their students, so there is a problem that the Masters Development Program seeks to address: there are not enough qualified instructors to teach double registration.

Rural schools, in particular, often lack such opportunities.

Most working high school teachers don’t have a master’s degree, according to statistics from the California Department of Education. But rural school districts with a large proportion of English-language learners and/or low-income students are the least likely to have teachers with a master’s degree, at 32%. Urban districts are the most likely, at 48%.

To teach a college course, a person must have a master’s degree. This has been the rule in California for over 30 years.

It’s also difficult to bring college instructors to rural areas, Spevak said. Instructors may not want to travel long distances or work a high school schedule, according to the PPIC report.

“Principals and superintendents were telling us, ‘We’d like to do this, but we don’t have anyone on our staff with a master’s degree, and it’s hard for the college to send people here,'” Spevak said.

Development Program Limitations

Most teachers so far come from the larger urban schools. Many rural schools, such as Fowler, Washington Union, and Yosemite Unified, have only one teacher each in the program, although these schools have smaller populations.

A more significant limitation to the program’s purpose is that no one can actually force teachers to teach dual enrollment when they are done with the program. They can only hope they will, according to Spevak.

“There’s no way we can demand that,” he said.

“There is no guarantee that you will be hired because the college has to hire you as an assistant instructor in addition to being a high school teacher. We didn’t want to tie the middle school or high school teacher’s hands.

Instead, they only ask graduates if they plan to teach dual enrollment at their high school. Graduates will be matched with mentors who can guide them through the application process to teach at the State Center Community College District.

The first cohort ended in December 2021, and none have yet started teaching dual enrollment, according to Spevak, but since only one semester has passed, it’s likely too soon for any of them. has started.

National University and FPU

Spevak said National University and Fresno Pacific University were chosen because they offered the most direct path to graduation and could be completed in a year to a year and a half.

The program can be replicated in other locations, but organizations need to ensure that the program aligns well with student goals, according to program director Christine Photinos, who has taught several courses for National University cohorts.

“Many graduate programs in English still focus primarily on literary studies, even though students who complete (this) program will in most cases teach primarily writing, or teach in several subfields of study English, not just literature,” she said.

“If (students) don’t see connections between their graduate studies and their major professional commitments, staying in the program is going to be a challenge.”

She said that although the basic requirements were the same as for the regular master’s program, some classes needed to be streamlined to keep the cohort of students together.

“For example, one of the requirements for literary studies is a single-author course,” she said. “Well… which author?”

“We ended up developing a course in which each student could choose their own focus writer, but within the framework of a common content centered on the study of textual strategies.”

Getting teachers to engage in the big business of earning a master’s degree while working is also a barrier.

“These people are teachers by day and students by night,” she told the Education Lab, and on top of all that, they have many other commitments, both professional and personal.”

K-16 Collaborative on Governor’s Radar

Funding for the program came from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office in 2020 and helped cover virtually all of the costs associated with earning a master’s degree, according to Fresno-Madera K-16 Collaborative director Kari Hammerstrom.

Grant funding paid for any uncovered scholarships, rebates or incentives, leaving “little or no money for teachers to shell out,” she said. Even books are sometimes covered.

Newsom’s office has kept regional collaborations on the radar as the organizations aim to create partnerships between school districts and colleges to create pathways for students to earn degrees.

And Newsom just awarded an additional $18.1 million to the Fresno-Madera and Tulare Kings collaboration to use on projects like expanding the master’s development program.

“We have a lot of positive feedback,” Hammerstrom said, “for a master’s degree program opportunity for teachers of ethnic studies, psychology, or some of the other A-G grades that might be dual-taught.

The Education Lab is a grassroots journalism initiative that highlights education issues critical to the advancement of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. Learn more about The Bee’s Education Lab on our website.

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