FPU, UC Merced join to address Valley teacher shortage

By wayne.steffen on February 5, 2013 @ 2:21am

Called the Central Valley Teacher Prep Partnership (CVTPP), the program "will provide a seamless career pathway from undergraduate education at the University of California to professional preparation programs located at Fresno Pacific University's center in Merced," according to the memo of understanding between the universities. 

The partnership builds on FPU's expertise in teacher education and UC Merced's pool of students who are interested in education and desire to stay local. The two universities serve a large number of students who are the first in their families to attend college, and share a vision to increase the number of effective K-12 educators, especially those serving in low-performing schools in high-poverty areas.

The program will begin in the summer of 2013. Students who have earned a bachelor's from UC Merced can enroll directly in the FPU teacher education program to begin work on their credential, which they can complete in as little as one academic year. Like all teacher-education candidates, they must pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) and relevant portions of the California Subject Examination Test (CSET).

"I'm really proud of the work we've done," said Linda Hoff, Ph.D., chair of the FPU Division of Teacher Education. "A public-private partnership is unusual; a partnership between the University of California and a small, faith-based institution is very unusual."

Fresno Pacific University has about 3,500 traditional and adult students. FPU has the highest four-year graduation rate of any university in the Valley and is the region's only comprehensive Christian university granting master's degrees. UC Merced, opened in 2005, is the 10th campus in the University of California system. Nearly 5,800 undergraduate and graduate students study in three schools: engineering, natural sciences and social sciences, humanities and arts.

UC Merced students who enroll in CVTPP can study at any FPU location: the main campus in Southeast Fresno, or one of the regional centers in Merced, North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield. "The opportunity is there for students to get their credential in the community where they grew up and maybe do their student teaching there," said Amanda Krum-Stovall, FPU graduate program advisor. "Our goal is to keep them in the Valley."

Connections to the region are one reason UC Merced was interested in working with FPU. Forty percent of UC Merced students come from the Valley, and many want to stay, said Juan Meza, Ph.D., dean of the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced. "One of the things we like about FPU is that it's local," he added.

That local connection is important to potential students. "Many UC Merced grads who wish to become teachers are excited to discover they can complete their professional preparation at the FPU Merced center, which is just down the road from the UC," Hoff said.

FPU also offers these students their first 3 units free. "That makes it a nice monetary incentive, as well," Meza said.

Funds for CVTPP come from the University of California system's CalTeach/Science and Math Initiative (SMI). Students who wish to teach in all fields are welcome, but a special effort is being made to recruit science and math educators.

"There really is a shortage of qualified teachers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields," said Meza, who is also SMI principle investigator. "This is a way to take students interested in science and math and motivate them to go into K-12 teaching. It's going to make it a very successful program."