Credential candidate Alan Spencer works with a student in a math clinic in early 2018.

New funding aims to reduce turnover in special needs teaching program

This program received funds through a grant that has been successful in the turnover for teachers.

The HSU special needs teachers program was awarded a residency grant worth about $200,000 per year. This covers the resident education fees and any other fees within the program. The administration of funds are from the Humboldt County Office of Education as well as partner Humboldt State University. A major part of this program is to reduce the turnover or drop of special needs teachers in Humboldt County.

The four individuals partners are David Ellerd, a professor and program leader, program coordinator Bernie Levy, Colby Smart, superintendent of educational services, and Jenny Bowen, Director of Personnel Services Humboldt County Office of Education.

The grant was first established three years ago when Ellerd, among other members, wrote the grant to provide funding for local schools that were having issues getting special needs teachers as well as having them stay for five years. Levy, the program coordinator, wanted to help with getting school teachers and credentials for those teachers.

“Apart from being a resident, they have the opportunity to continue working and most people in this program are already working as a classroom aid and they were ready to sort of taking the next step,” Smart said.

“It provided funding for the residency program for ten residents,” Levy said. “It could be ten different schools, it could be less spending on how many residents in a particular school for five years.”

Prior to this program, there was a mentoring program established but had little success and high turnover in teachers.

“They found over the years in research that retention rates for special education using the internship model have been huge turnovers, in other words, you might get a teacher staying in the profession one or two years and then leaving prematurely,” Levy said.

Since the partnership with HSU has simplified credentials and residency, this program has been a great success in helping the community. Smart has seen great success in this program and even more than ten residents apply.

“Part of the agreement is that the student will teach in the district for four years,” Smart said. “That’s really the goal, we really try to match residents with school districts who are looking for or needing additional special education teachers.”

With this program’s success, there have been a few complications in the program regarding the pandemic, but some new opportunities as well.

“One of the benefits with virtual instruction is that we realized that we can deliver our course work to outlying areas where the folks can’t leave their school to come to Humboldt,” Ellerd said. “One of the things we have been discussing is being able to continue to deliver our course work online so those folks in the outer areas will be able to participate in the program.”

The overall goal is to help students get the credentials they need to become special education teachers and stay in that district to stop the turnover in Humboldt County.

“Primary goal of this program is to build up and promote special education in our community,” Smart said.

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