More Community Colleges Offering Education Degrees Despite Teacher Shortages – NBC 7 San Diego

In her sophomore class near Seattle, Fatima Nuñez Ardon often tells her students stories of ordinary people achieving their dreams. One day, for example, she spoke about Salvadoran American NASA astronaut Francisco Rubio and his journey to the International Space Station.

Another day, she told them her own life story – how she, a Salvadoran immigrant who came to the United States in college speaking very little English, became a teacher.

Nuñez Ardon followed an unusual path to the classroom: She earned her teaching degree by taking night classes at a community college, while living at home and raising her four children.

Community college education programs like this are rare, but growing. They can dramatically reduce the cost and increase the convenience of earning a teaching degree, while making a job in education accessible to a wider variety of people.

In Washington State, nine community colleges offer teaching degrees for elementary and higher education. All programs started within the last decade.

Across the country, education programs remain much more common in four-year institutions. Six other states — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada and New Mexico — have community colleges that offer K-12 education-related degrees, according to data from the Community College Baccalaureate Association.

The expansion comes at the right time: the teacher shortage has worsened over the past decade and fewer undergraduates are enrolling in teacher education programs. The number of people completing a teacher education program fell by almost a third between the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic years, according to a report released in March by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

More community colleges across the country are beginning to offer teacher training, CCBA President Angela Kersenbrock said. A total of 51 community college education programs have been launched across the country since the early 2000s.

And they’re attracting students like Nuñez Ardon, who earned certification to lead a K-8 class in June at age 36. It is likely that she would not have pursued a career in the classroom otherwise.

The teacher shortage predates the pandemic. For years, the number of graduates from teacher education programs has fallen short of demand. In 2018, 57,000 fewer students nationwide earned degrees in education than in 2011.

To fill staffing gaps, schools in Washington State have had to bring in underqualified employees. The number of waivers granted to staff who failed to meet certification requirements rose to 8,080 in the 2019-20 school year, from less than 2,800 a decade earlier, according to a 2021 report by Professional Educator. State Standards Board.

In recent years, the state has encouraged “Grow Your Own” programs, or alternative routes to classroom certification. Some are run by schools, others by colleges. They are seen as a way to alleviate teacher shortages and develop a workforce that is more representative of the student body. Statewide, 50% of Washington students are people of color, while 87% of classroom teachers are white.

At Yakima Valley College, like other community colleges in Washington, teacher candidates are assigned a residency at a partner school for the second half of the two-year program.

Students must first have an associate degree before starting the program. Classes take place mainly in the evening. While juggling their work and school load, teacher candidates also take a series of state-required tests to earn their certification.

“By the time they complete their residency, they’ve met all of their requirements not only from the program but also from the state,” said Elizabeth Paulino, who directs Yakima Valley College’s teacher training program.

As the country grapples with a teacher shortage, studies show that educators of color, especially black teachers, are more likely to leave. A survey by DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization for teachers, found that only 55% of black teachers said they still plan to teach in 10 years, compared to 64% of white teachers and 66% of teachers. latinos. DonorsChoose CEO Alix Guerrier joins LX News to discuss why black teachers are leaving the field.

There has been a pushback against community college degree programs in education in Washington and nationally as universities offering teacher education programs grapple with declining enrollment, said Debra Bragg, founder and former director of community college research initiatives at the University of Washington.

Community colleges argue that they’re a good place to train teachers because they’re open-entry — there’s no selective admissions process — and they “attract students that universities don’t. ‘probably do not attract and probably will not attract’. she says.

Nuñez Ardon said that was the case for her.

For one thing, she was tied to the place by her growing family, and the nearby University of Washington doesn’t offer a bachelor’s degree in teacher education. Cost was another factor. The program Nuñez Ardon took at Highline College costs about $7,100 a year — much less than neighboring universities — and allowed him to live at home and fit into his work schedule.

Many Washington community college education programs have grown in response to demand from local schools.

Connie Smejkal, dean of teacher education at Centralia College, said regional superintendents frequently call to say they’re having trouble hiring and retaining teachers.

“Their need was extraordinary,” she said.

In 2016, Centralia and Grays Harbor community colleges launched a collaborative teacher training program, anticipating that neither would have enough students to run a full program on their own. Each planned to have an initial cohort of 12 teacher candidates. But student interest was high: There were more than 80 applicants to Centralia for the first cohort alone.

“We realized how hungry the community was to become teachers,” Smejkal said. The following year, Centralia and Grays Harbor formed their own separate programs, and between the two schools, 175 people graduated.

Smejkal said everyone in last year’s cohort who was interested in classroom teaching signed a contract with a school before graduating.

Peter Finch, superintendent of the West Valley School District in Yakima, said there has been no shortage of general education teachers since the Yakima Valley College program began.

He also said teachers hired through the local program so far have been mostly Latinx, and half have been bilingual Spanish-English speakers, which better matches the demographic and support needs of students in the district.

Meanwhile, Nuñez Ardon spends her days at Madrona Elementary School in SeaTac as a teacher and role model for the young students she sees herself in – and in whom she hopes to inspire the same curiosity and passion to learn. .

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This story is part of Tackling Teacher Shortages, a collaboration between AL.com, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Dallas Morning News, The Fresno Bee in California, The Hechinger Report, The Seattle Times and The Post and Courier in Charleston . , South Carolina, with support from the Solutions Journalism Network.

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