Facing an educator shortage, the neediest public schools in San Francisco will soon train and hire teachers from an online-based program.
The San Francisco Unified School District plans to roll out a new teacher residency program next school year to staff middle schools with high turnover under a partnership with New York University Steinhardt.
United Educators of San Francisco criticized the program for being online-based as well as for fast-tracking inexperienced teachers into schools serving children who often live in poverty and underachieve.
UESF Vice President Susan Solomon said that is a “good recipe” for high-teacher turnover, which contributes to the severe teacher shortage the district has experienced in recent years.
“This is nothing personal about the people who will be taking these jobs,” Solomon said. “But we have seen this happen before where brand new teachers with really no experience will go into classrooms where they are going to be challenged.”
Solomon questioned whether the program can offer a high-quality education to student teachers over the internet so that “people will not only come here, but stay here.”
But NYU Steinhardt spokesperson Rachel Harrison said in an email that the online coursework “enables teacher residents to spend more time in their classrooms and with their mentors.”
She also said student teachers will be “committed to staying” in the district for at least two years.
There are 269 vacant teaching positions in the school district next school year as of Friday, though not all of the openings are for classroom teachers, according to district records.
The district plans to “cluster” the 15 student teachers at hard-to-staff middle schools that suffer from high teacher turnover, hoping to hire between five and seven teachers a year, according to a contract with NYU that the Board of Education approved last month.
The $400,000 contract will reduce tuition costs for student teachers for two years.
Harrison said the schools are located in the southeast neighborhoods of San Francisco.
Everett Middle School, James Denman Middle School, James Lick Middle School, Martin Luther King Middle School and Willie Brown Middle School are all considered hard-to-staff next school year, according to the district. MLK Middle and Willie Brown Middle are in The City’s southeast.
District records show each school is hiring between one and three classroom teachers next school year, and some also have openings for special education teachers.
The union’s main concern with the program was that student teachers would be coached remotely, but SFUSD spokesperson Heidi Anderson said they will “always be under the supervision of a certificated teacher.”
Harrison said the student teachers will have an online mentor who is an NYU faculty member and also be paired with a “seasoned” SFUSD teacher for the entire school year.
An NYU residency director based in San Francisco will help supervise the student teachers while they complete their coursework online over a year, according to Harrison.
The student teachers will not gain full responsibility of their class until the spring, according to an SFUSD news release.
The program, called the Embedded Master of Arts in Teaching or EMAT, just finished its first year.
There is already a program that aims to staff high-need schools in the district, called the San Francisco Teacher Residency program, which offers in-person courses. According to its website, 89 percent of graduates from the program still teach in San Francisco.