Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Lack Training, Support Residency Program Struggling, Failing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teachers Lack Training, Support Residency Program Struggling, Failing

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Diamond, Times-Union staff writer

New teachers need sufficient training plus continuous support from administrators and mentors to succeed in the classroom.

But a program implemented by the Duval County School Board and the University of North Florida to train new teachers to work in Jacksonville schools failed to give the new educators the support they needed, organizers and participants say.

Through the Urban Teacher Residency Program, 70 people working in other careers agreed to leave their jobs and take a pay cut to become public school teachers. They took two courses at UNF and worked as student teachers during summer school.

Then in August, these new teachers began working in the system's most challenged schools. They were assigned to schools with discipline problems and low test scores. About half became special education teachers.

There was hope the new teachers would succeed. But many, like Steven Waln, have struggled.

As a science teacher at Eugene Butler Middle School, Waln had difficulty managing paperwork and teaching responsibilities. He didn't know how to discipline students and keep them quiet.

Waln no longer works in a classroom after a school system investigation cited him for cursing at students. Waln denies using foul language in class.

So far, about 20 percent of these new teachers have quit. There has been frustration that the program doesn't provide enough guidance.

"I have only been told what I was doing wrong, and then I was never given any guidance on how to improve," Waln said. "I've always known that I wasn't the best teacher, but I was trying my best. It seems like there is little support for teachers who really want to get better and help students."

Program organizers admit mistakes were made.

Superintendent John Fryer said requiring participants to do their student teaching during summer school was inappropriate. During summer, there are fewer students in each classroom and the day is shorter.

"They needed a more intense regular school experience to see what this was all about," Fryer said. "Many of them just weren't prepared and didn't know what they would be experiencing."

Duval County is using a training program that has been implemented by 13 other school systems nationwide. Duval County has the highest dropout rate, at 20 percent. New York City, the nation's largest school system, had a 12 percent dropout rate during its first year.

School systems implemented the program to fill a shortage of math and science teachers. Duval County recruited people working in math and science fields. Waln previously worked as a chiropractor and computer systems analyst.

While these new teachers possess knowledge about the subject area, they don't understand how children learn and are unable to organize lessons that connect with their students. …

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