Now in its second year, mentor-based preparation program combats hiring challenges
EAST SAN JOSÉ, Calif. – While most schools across California are struggling to find enough teachers, an Alpha Public Schools initiative to get more highly effective educators leading San José classrooms, Project 408, more than doubled in size. Now in its second year, Project 408, a new teacher residency program launched by Alpha, is currently serving 10 aspiring educators – nearly half the number of teachers the school network hires annually. Launched as a small pilot with four residents in 2015, Project 408 provides a supportive, hand-on mentoring and credentialing program for aspiring teachers.
“Teachers are one of the most important factors in a student’s education. Locally, we are facing a shortage of talent and a lack of diversity in those entering the field. Through Project 408, Alpha is working to ensure students have an effective teacher while also increasing the diversity of those leading our classrooms,” Shara Hegde, chief schools officer at Alpha Public Schools.
Statewide, California is facing a teacher shortage coupled with near historic levels of low enrollment into teacher preparation programs. San Jose, like many urban communities across the country, also faces a diversity gap between teachers and the students whom they teach.
Alpha is committed to a diverse, quality team of educators. While 36 percent of California teachers are individuals of color, 48 percent of educators in all Alpha Public Schools identify that way. That number will increase through Project 408 as 91 percent of this year’s cohort identify as individuals of color.
“As a student, I lacked a cultural connection with my teachers. At Alpha, I’m constantly working to ensure students and their parents know that school is a place where their culture and language is valued,” said Rosalinda Rocha, a sixth grade teacher at Alpha: Blanca Alvarado Middle School who was part of Project 408’s first cohort. “My students have shown great commitment to their education. Their investment motivates me. Alpha’s investment in me, through Project 408, has prepared me to provide students with the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful in life.”
Project 408 is designed to reduce barriers for those interested in pursuing a teaching career. Residents work toward their credential while earning a full-time salary and gaining in-the-field experience to best prepare them to effectively work with students.
“At the core of our work, we want the best possible teachers in front of our students,” said Adriana Garcia, senior director of talent at Alpha Public Schools. “To do this, we make sure that money is not a barrier to entering the teaching profession. Then, we provide the relationships and tools needed to become an excellent teacher.”
Each resident is paired with an Alpha lead teacher through the two-year, practice-based credentialing program. In the first year, residents work full-time as an Alpha staff member, while attending classes one night per week through an intern credential program. Residents have clearly defined monthly milestones that lead to a two-week takeover in the spring, weekly observations and feedback meetings and monthly cohort meetings. Upon completion, Alpha may extend a formal offer to hire residents as full-time teachers for the following school year. In year two, residents who become teachers of record will also complete their credential. Of the 2015-16 residents, 100 percent were hired and are currently employed at Alpha.
Project 408 is supported by generous grants from the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and the Sobrato Family Foundation.
About Alpha Public Schools:
Alpha Public Schools is a network of four high-performing public charter schools founded by a group of East San José parents dedicated to helping transform their community. Alpha was founded with a vision of giving all East San José youth the opportunities that will allow them to choose a successful future. Alpha schools prepare and empower 1,600 K-10 students to be tomorrow’s leaders through a model that emphasizes personalized learning, computer science, and character development. For more information about Alpha, please visit www.alphapublicschools.org.