Pittsburgh Teacher Academy to begin with smaller class than anticipated
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The Pittsburgh Teacher Academy Residency will begin with smaller numbers than planned, with just 38 teachers seeking an initial or additional certification.
The academy is designed to provide support and training for incoming teachers.
But an additional 100 new hires for this fall will be assigned directly to their own classrooms because of the cost of offering residencies and the fact that some vacancies will need to be filled immediately.
Superintendent Linda Lane said the district had asked for $29.5 million over three years in a federal School Improvement Grant but received $14.7 million.
Among other things, the grant pays for the $39,000 annual salary of new teachers at the academy, so a smaller grant means fewer of them can be in residency.
The academy will be in two buildings, Pittsburgh Brashear High School and Pittsburgh King PreK-8, which will continue to operate as regular schools.
The state has given the academy permission to offer teacher certification -- without going through a college-based teacher training program -- for two groups:
One is college graduates seeking alternative certification. They will work on two certificates, special education and a subject area -- math, science or English language arts.
The other is teachers who have a certificate in a core subject -- math, science, English language arts and social studies -- but want to earn a special education certificate.
While new teachers assigned to the academy will earn $39,000 a year, they will pay tuition -- $5,000 for those working on two certificates and $3,000 on those working on one. They will have to teach in the district for five years or else pay back $20,000.
In addition, the three-year clock toward earning tenure will not start ticking until the following year, when they get their own classrooms.
Whether they go to the academy or their own classrooms, all new teachers will have three weeks of professional development before the school year begins.
"Our vision is that we provide a process whereby teachers coming into the district are going to be further along in that learning curve when they first go into the classroom with students," said Dr. Lane.
New teachers this year also had three weeks of training before the school year began, but Dr. Lane said it is too early to gauge its impact.
She said learning events also will be offered throughout the year -- to new teachers both at the academy and in other schools.
"The overall goal is to do a stellar job of supporting new teachers," she said.
Dr. Lane said teachers will benefit from special ed certification even if they are teaching core subjects.
She said the special ed training will help the teachers better meet individual student needs and noted that some special education students are mainstreamed into regular classrooms.
"Even if you never teach special education, it will make you a better science teacher," she said.
While applicants to the residency program are not limited to minorities, Dr. Lane said the program is expected to increase the diversity of the district's teaching staff because alternative certification programs tend to be attractive to diverse candidates.
By second semester, some teachers already employed in the district will be able to go to the academy for six-week periods to hone their skills.
Their places in their home school will be filled by the new teachers who will by then have spent at least a semester training at the academy.
To make a smooth transition, the new teacher and the regular classroom teacher will spend two weeks together in the regular teacher's classroom.
The regular teacher then will go to the academy for six weeks. Upon returning to the home school, the replacement and the regular teacher will spend a week teaching together.
At the academy, the visiting teachers will work with other teachers who have been selected to be clinical resident teachers. There are expected to be around 45 clinical resident teachers who will be paid an extra $13,300 a year for their time and responsibilities.
The process for choosing which current teachers can go to the academy has not yet been finalized, but it is not intended for struggling teachers.
Each will be working on individual goals.
There may also be opportunities for the regular teachers to go out in the field to see how their content areas are put into play outside of schools.
John Tarka, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said the academy will help to provide a "solid foundation" for new teachers and a positive professional development experience for current teachers.
More information the Teacher Academy Residency is available at www.teacheracademyresidency.org.
First Published January 31, 2011 12:00 am