Teacher prep program focuses on linked learning, multiple pathways

One graduate will be helping implement linked learning ideals as part of a school restructuring called for under the terms of a federal School Improvement Grant.

Another will be using new skills to establish a culinary program at an existing school.

And a third has created a program for transitioning foster youth from adolescence to adulthood including mentoring and internships - an idea that has won support from a private foundation and the state of Oregon where she now lives.

Such is the stuff already being produced by the inaugural class of the Teachers College of San Joaquin's master program focused on education reform and linked learning.

The program, one of only a handful in the country, was founded to develop educators well versed in the context of public school reform as it relates to both college and career readiness.

The purpose of our college is to develop that new generation of teachers and school leaders who will be able to connect the high quality academics with real world situations," said Gary Dei Rossi, deputy superintendent at the San Joaquin County Office of Education, which is the operator of the educator preparation college.

The county had for many years operated a teacher intern program as well as an administrative credential program. But a number of former students pointed to the need for a new master degree that would link career technical education with the more traditional college preparation instruction.

The program began in 2009 and its first class had its graduation ceremony Sunday.

The intent is to prepare teachers who can guide students down multiple pathways - which could include small learning communities, career academies, project-based learning, authentic assessment practices, 21st century skills, or integrated, academic and career-oriented curriculum.

Most of the enrollees of the program are already teachers or administrators who are looking to build a new part of their professional development. The program, which includes 32 to 38 units, can be completed in as little as 14 months. It is accredited by the California Teacher Credentialing Commission and has an application for certification before the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Dei Rossi, who also serves as chief executive officer of the college, said that preparing students for college should remain a primary goal of the school system - but too often, students that are not likely to make it to a university are overlooked.

"Right now about 20 percent of our students are going to college - there's that whole other 80 percent that are not, but are still going to need some sort of post-secondary education," he said. "Why aren't we thinking more about that other 80 percent?

"We need to be helping those kids be successful," Dei Rossi noted. "They are our future citizens, our future taxpayers - they need to be successful."

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