In early April, officials from California’s Office of the Governor, California Department of Education, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the California State University, Chancellor’s Office, CSU Long Beach’s College of Education (CED), and the Little Lake City School District (LLCSD) convened at Paddison Elementary School in Norwalk to see CED’s SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union-sponsored Urban Dual Credential Program (UDCP)—an inclusive, blended credential program—in action. The state officials were interested in learning about how the College of Education and the school district collaborated in the development of rich and early clinical experiences that effectively prepare teacher candidates for both elementary and special education credentials in a site-based dual credential program. Paddison Elementary, in LLCSD, is one of the partner schools who works closely with students enrolled in UDCP and hosted the group.
Looking at the UDCP program as a model of deep clinical practice, the delegates were able to observe first year UDCP students in their classrooms with their mentor-teachers actively engaged in lessons. Over the course of the morning, the group traveled from class to class dropping in on general education and special education classrooms spending a few minutes in each to more fully experience the partnership between mentor-teacher and UDCP student. Mentor-teachers and students currently enrolled in the program met with the delegates after the classroom visits to candidly answer questions regarding the program, its success, and functionalities.
Kristi Kawabe, a Liberal Studies, ITEP, UDCP student shared what initially drew her to apply to the UDCP program, “Since the fifth grade, I knew I wanted to become a teacher and in high school, my passion for the special needs community inspired me to pursue volunteering as a coach for Special Olympics and ultimately, a career as an education specialist for students with moderate-to-severe disabilities. This program provides me an opportunity to choose to work in either setting and prepares me to provide all students a quality education with the necessary adaptations and modifications to succeed.” Kawabe is choosing to utilize her degree toward a career working with adult students ages 18-22 years old with moderate-to-severe disabilities. Kawabe said, “I especially look forward to teaching my future students functional living skills and other practical curriculum that will help them to achieve increased independence.”
The UDCP, the first of its kind in California, was developed by College of Education faculty with specializations in multi-tiered systems of support, multicultural education, teaching English Learners, literacy, and collaboration to better meet the needs of school-age students. This unique two-year program provides students an opportunity to earn credentials in both general education and special education while working alongside a mentor-teacher in a classroom for the program’s duration. SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s sponsorship includes scholarships for all students during their second year limiting financial barriers for students enrolled in this intensive program. Several competitive scholarships are also offered, including three from a private donor as part of a six-year research and evaluation study on the UDCP model. The Assistance League of Long Beach and Alpha Delta Kappa – Zeta Chapter have offered generous UDCP scholarships for the 2018-19 academic year.
UDCP students are paired with a mentor-teacher beginning in their first semester where they engage with practice-based opportunities such as teaching lessons, conducting assessments, providing interventions, and in their second-year, student teaching in both a general and special education setting. Students are eligible to participate in this program as part of their bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, or as post-baccalaureate credential students. Functioning almost as a residency between the student and their school site, the UDCP allows more active time in the classroom and long-term engagement between the students and their mentor-teachers. The program helps foster a sense of community as the UDCP students remain in the same school site and district for the duration of the program. Because of this continuity, relationships and trust are built between the mentor-teacher and student which can allow for more risk-taking, something that may not occur in a shorter time span. Having both credentials creates higher marketability for the students, but also it creates a stronger teacher as UDCP graduates are prepared for various classroom environments and differing students’ needs and can adapt as necessary. With credentials in both special education and general education UDCP students are equipped to teach in either classroom environment, or in inclusive settings, and can give more individualized support to their students.
Little Lake City School District, has a unique partnership with the College of Education as they have helped to modify the program over the years, and have also hired many of the UDCP graduates after completing the program.
When asked why she traveled from Sacramento to see the SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union UDCP program in action, Mary Sandy, Executive Director, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing commented, “For me it has to do with the kind of learner that I am. I read reports on these kinds of programs and I get inspired and excited in the abstract. I think something works conceptually and it appeals to my sense of reason and order, but if it doesn’t work on the ground, how would I know that? So seeing teachers in action, seeing students engaging with those teachers and those student-teachers, hearing from and seeing the superintendent and the district level leadership and their level of commitment and actually being able to hear from them what they value in it [is vital]. These [UDCP] students, just seeing and hearing [their] real testimonials about why they’re in teaching…You can’t get that in Sacramento. I absolutely had to come and see the parts working together in a site like this in order to understand which parts are really essential.”