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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU’s Accelerated Graduate Program Provides Local Solution to Growing National Teacher Shortages

By Megan Shearin

Across the nation, school districts are struggling with teacher shortages in key subject areas like science and mathematics, with hard-to-staff schools and positions primarily located in urban areas, such as the City of Norfolk.

This year, however, the middle and high school science and mathematics classrooms in Norfolk Public Schools are full with teachers thanks to an innovative education program called Teacher In Residence (TIR). It's a partnership with Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education and the City of Norfolk, which prepares highly-qualified teachers to serve in critical shortage areas.

Funded by the Virginia Department of Education, the TIR Program is an accelerated pathway into teaching.

"The program is intense, said Director Janice Underwood. "But the payoff is worth it. In just nine months, students earn both a master's degree in secondary education and initial teaching licensure."

Applications for 2018-2019 are now being accepted until Monday, Nov. 20.

Given that teacher retention rates, especially in hard to staff schools, is one reason for the widening gap, the TIR Program explicitly supports and prepares teacher candidates with the skills and competencies necessary to engage diverse students. For example, teacher candidates are given opportunities to confront their own biases while simultaneously learning how to empower students with science and mathematics instruction that confronts social injustices.
"We intentionally equip our teacher candidates with how to teach in culturally relevant ways to engage the diverse students in Norfolk Public Schools, many of whom are reluctant learners or who have been traditionally marginalized and/or under-served in STEM areas," said Underwood. "During this uncertain time in education, we know we must purposefully work to increase student engagement in science and mathematics, and in doing so, we must prepare educators to influence students of diverse perspectives to pursue careers in STEM areas."

Melinda Boone, superintendent of Norfolk Public Schools, said the results of the partnership have positively impacted the local school division. "The School Board of the City of Norfolk has hired many of the teacher candidates who completed this program, and currently, these teachers have become teacher leaders and are serving to influence teaching and learning in our schools," she said.


While teacher shortages are nothing new, conversations in the Commonwealth between educational leaders and policymakers have ramped up. On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Jane Bray, dean of the College of Education, spoke about how institutes of higher education and K-12 Schools can build stronger partnerships to address teacher shortages. The event, held at the University of Virginia, was co-hosted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, state Secretary of Education Dietra Trent, the Curry School, Curry School Dean Robert C. Pianta and the UVA K-12 Advisory Council.

"Educational leaders are working hard to collaborate with policymakers and find solutions to address teacher shortages," Bray said. One takeaway from the event is how to shift the conversation to discuss the economic impact of the problem, she noted.

At the national level, the country is now short as many as 327,000 teachers, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute. Virginia alone had more than 1,000 vacant positions in October 2016. And while fixing the teacher shortage crisis will take time, Bray said the Darden College of Education remains committed to the local community.

"Our TIR Program and strong partnership with Norfolk Public Schools is just one local solution to a growing national problem," Bray said.