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Unique Program Aimed At Reducing Teacher Shortages Lets Students Realize Their Dreams

9/11/2019, noon | Updated on 9/11/2019, noon

Unique Program Aimed At Reducing Teacher Shortages Lets Students Realize Their Dreams

Roosevelt University and the Chicago Public Schools have launched a unique residency program aimed at reducing teacher shortages in the high-need areas of Early Childhood and Special Education.

Made possible with a $250,000 grant from the state of Illinois, the new initiative called the AA to BA Teacher Residency Program will make it possible for the first time ever for CPS teaching assistants and paraprofessionals with associate degrees to obtain bachelor’s degrees and become licensed teachers in two years’ time.

The first class of 22 students – the majority who are Special Education majors – started July 9 at Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus.

“This is my chance to follow my dream,” said Sandra Lopez, a member of the inaugural class who has an associate’s degree and has been an academic tutor with CPS for the last six years.

Like many of her fellow classmates, the new Roosevelt student always wanted to be a teacher, but could not find the time or opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree and obtain her teaching license. “Now that my daughter will be off to college, it will be my turn,” said Lopez, an Early Childhood Education major who will begin teaching in a CPS classroom under supervision of a mentor next year.

The Roosevelt program is part of the larger CPS Teacher Residency: A Bridge to Teaching Program, which inducted its first group of 25 residents on Aug. 29 – all who hold bachelor’s degrees and are completing master’s degrees.

Designed in partnership by CPS and Roosevelt’s College of Education, the new AA to BA program will prepare a growing number of candidates – all who hold associate’s degrees and are completing bachelor’s degrees – for Early Childhood and Special Education teaching positions, which are fast growing at CPS and other schools throughout Illinois.

“We are creating a needed pool of qualified teachers, especially for schools with limited resources where teacher shortages have been growing,” said Tom Philion, dean of Roosevelt’s College of Education.

Since 2016, the college has been reshaping its traditional teacher preparation programs into job-embedded residency training experiences.

“We have been creating courses and programs that are more flexible, reasonable and practical than ever before. This includes our new residency program with CPS,” added Philion.

Since course and program upgrades began three years ago, enrollment at Roosevelt’s College of Education has been on the rise, with enrollment increasing 18 percent over the last three years.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs at Roosevelt also has increased 45 percent over the same time period and 69 percent in the last two years.

In the process, the college also has forged working partnerships with a number of Chicago-area schools, including the new AA to BA Teacher Residency Program with CPS.

“This new program stresses flexibility, which most of today’s busy teaching candidates really need,” he said. “We also believe it can be a model for the kind of innovative approaches that today’s financially strapped schools will want to consider if they are to continue to provide adequate resources and quality education for all.”