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New Grant Allows for Expansion of Innovative Partnership with Saint Mary's College of California, Transforming the Special Education Teacher Pipeline


Contact:  Ursula Kroemer Leimbach / communications@mdusd.org / mobile: (760) 705-6919


New grant allows for expansion of innovative partnership with Saint Mary’s College of California, transforming the Special Education teacher pipeline


Area Schools Special Education Teacher (ASSET) preparation program grant will enable MDUSD employees to receive almost $4,000 in tuition support in a unique fast-track credential program


(CONCORD, CA – November 27, 2017) – The Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) has been awarded the Area Schools Special Education Teacher (ASSET) preparation program grant from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing that will expand an innovative Special Education teacher credentialing initiative launched a year ago.


The ASSET grant will provide $400,000 over the next five years to offset tuition costs and enable all MDUSD classified employees the opportunity to participate in the credential program with Saint Mary’s College of California (SMC) and earn an intern credential for a Mild/Moderate Education Specialist teaching credential that deems them to be highly qualified Special Education teachers. Classified employees from other local districts in the Contra Costa Special Education Local Planning Agency (SELPA) may also qualify to participate in this project.


Nationwide, there is a critical shortage of fully-credentialed Special Education teachers. Of new teachers entering the profession, data show an overwhelming majority of Special Education teachers are entering the classroom on substandard credentials, unprepared and untrained.  In California alone, these shortages have skyrocketed.  The Learning Policy Institute, an independent Palo Alto-based education research organization, reports that in 2015-2016, 64% of new Special Education teachers in California held substandard credentials and permits, compared to 36% who held preliminary credentials.


To respond to the need for qualified Special Education teachers, Saint Mary’s Kalmanovitz School of Education created a reciprocal partnership with MDUSD in 2016, enrolling an inaugural cohort of 12 employees serving in classified (non-teaching) Special Education positions into a two-year program with extensive and intensive coaching and classroom support that enables them to earn a credential deeming them highly qualified. This program will begin enrolling candidates for its third cohort beginning in January of 2018 and summer of 2018.


The ASSET grant extends this partnership, supporting the enrollment of approximately 20 more classified employees into the MDUSD/SMC credentialing program this coming year.


An informational meeting on the credentialing program is scheduled for Thursday, December 7, 2017, beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the district’s main offices, 1936 Carlotta Street, in Concord.


The credential program was co-designed by Drs. David Krapf and Peter Alter, co-directors of the Education Specialist program at SMC; Dr. Wendi Aghily, MDUSD Executive Director of Special Education/SELPA; and Leyla Benson, MDUSD Executive Director of Human Resources.


“The ASSET grant will allow us to significantly expand and continue our shared work in providing excellent teacher preparation with Saint Mary’s College,” said Dr. Nellie Meyer, Superintendent for MDUSD.  “This partnership is allowing us to create a very tailored and supportive pipeline for Special Education teacher candidates and we see opportunities for expanded recruitment efforts into other teaching disciplines.”


With funding from the grant, qualified MDUSD employees will be able to begin coursework in January or the summer term of 2018, and begin teaching in the fall.  In addition to this new scholarship, participants will receive a 22% reduction in tuition costs. The MDUSD/SMC initiative also includes three additional components that set it apart from more traditional teacher preparation programs:

  • Most classes will be held at MDUSD facilities to decrease travel time and increase convenience for interns
  • Interns are provided an increased amount of “in the classroom” support and coaching. District-funded coaches will provide ongoing feedback, demonstration lessons, classroom resources, and classroom management support in the first year of the program. In the second year, candidates are moved to an intern credential program that deems them to be highly qualified.  It is estimated that each candidate will be provided more than 100 hours of support over the academic year.
  • The program of study has been condensed to allow multiple courses to be taught within each semester, and the program can be extended from 18 months to two years, allowing candidates to attend classes for two evenings a week and maintain a home/work/school balance.


“We are so grateful to the ASSET program and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing for supporting our program,” said Dr. Peter Alter, program coordinator and its co-founder. “It will provide substantial financial support for employees who have already demonstrated a commitment to students receiving Special Education services to move to an instructional position.”


Leyla Benson, MDUSD’s Executive Director of Human Resources and program co-founder, agrees.  “We have so many talented Special Education assistants who would be wonderful teachers. The stability this opportunity provides is mutually beneficial for students and employees.”


“Special education teachers have a tremendous impact on all students, not just those receiving Special Education services,” said Dr. Wendi Aghily of MDUSD. “Identifying and implementing practices that work for students with exceptional needs into an inclusive classroom is beneficial to all students, not just academically but socially as well.  It’s a chance to make a difference at multiple levels.”


“Working as a special educator offers an opportunity to create a unique bond,” said Superintendent Meyer. “The ASSET grant will help us grow our Special Education teacher workforce, create these important bonds, and continue to build an equitable learning environment for all students.”


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About the Mt. Diablo Unified School District

Mt. Diablo Unified, located in Contra Costa County, is honored to serve approximately 32,000 students at one of more than 50 school sites in the cities of Clayton, Concord, and Pleasant Hill; portions of Martinez, Pittsburg, and Walnut Creek; and the unincorporated areas of Bay Point, Lafayette, and Pacheco. As part of a richly diverse community, MDUSD families represent numerous ethnic groups, speaking nearly 50 languages and dialects. MDUSD offers award-winning and innovative programs in Career Technical Education; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); extensive visual and performing arts programs; and rich foreign language and dual immersion offerings.  MDUSD is pleased to have expanded its middle college program, College Now, and opened its first International Baccalaureate program and three new regional magnet schools in 2017.  Learn more at http://www.mdusd.org/.


Posted by: Debbie Maher, District Admin, Mt. Diablo Unified School District Published:11/27/17
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