Teachers For the Community
A new bachelor’s degree in education will help address a teacher shortage and increase the number of BIPOC educators in the classroom.
After years of careful planning and preparation, the UW Tacoma School of Education (SOE) is launching a new bachelor's degree in education.
Students in the first cohort will begin taking courses in the major during autumn quarter. “We aim to admit at least 20 total students in our inaugural cohort,” said Professor Julia Aguirre, who directs teaching certification programs at the school.
The new degree comes at a critical time. There is currently, by some measures, a nationwide shortage of teachers, including in Washington (see sidebar below). While the new program won’t single-handedly fix the crisis, a steady stream of new educators will help ease the pressure. “This program offers an accessible, justice-focused and rigorous pathway for UW Tacoma undergraduate students to fulfill a critical workforce shortage in our region, state and nation,” said School of Education Dean Rachel Endo.
Work on an undergraduate major in education begin in 2016, not long after the education program at UW Tacoma was reorganized as a school. “Our community and partner districts have long asked our campus to offer an undergraduate major in education that specifically recruits and prepares a diverse cadre of highly effective teachers who reflect the demographics of the South Sound,” said Aguirre. “We also saw strong support from students for an undergraduate education major in annual surveys conducted in the education minor courses.”
The new major coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the Education program at UW Tacoma. The past few years have been a time of sustained growth in academic programs offered by the School. In 2021, the SOE started accepting applications for its Education Specialist in School Psychology program. In 2020, the School, in collaboration with the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, established a Muckleshoot cohort as part of the Educational Leadership doctoral program. In autumn 2022, the School will launch another Muckleshoot cohort as part of its Master of Education program.
Helping address the teacher shortage is one goal of the new major, but it’s not the only one. “We’re also focused on addressing the shortage of BIPOC teachers in our community,” said Endo. “We seek to recruit, retain and support the next generation of culturally/linguistically responsive and highly effective teachers who reflect the demographics of our surrounding community.”
Students interested in pursuing a bachelor in education must first take three introductory courses: one in psychology, one in ethnic studies and a service-learning course in education. Students in the program will begin working together as a cohort starting the spring quarter of their third year. During their final year students will have an opportunity to teach in local schools.
“We provide a high level of support for teacher candidates through our cohort model,” said Aguirre. “Another unique aspect of our program is that we provide our candidates with systems of support including dedicated academic advisors and a dynamic team in our Office of Field Placements & Partnerships,” said Aguirre.
The program also includes certification options in two high-need areas. Students can pursue a dual endorsement in K-8 elementary education, along with a second K-12 endorsement in either special education or teaching English-language learners. “Upon completion of program requirements, graduates will be well prepared for multiple teaching positions that demand specialized knowledge and skills in K-12 schools,” said Aguirre.
Applications for this fall’s inaugural cohort are still being accepted. Classes begin Sept. 28. Interested students can contact the School of Education at 253-692-4430 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Is There a Teacher Shortage?
There is no uniform standard states and districts use to track which educator positions go unfilled, which can lead to different conclusions about whether teacher shortages exist at the national, state or regional levels.
But there are two areas of relative shortages that the new undergraduate degree from the UW Tacoma School of Education could help address.
Data collected by the Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board for 2021 suggests that, "across Washington State, there continues to be an extreme shortage of educators who reflect the diverse demographics of P-12 students." For example, a PESB graph reports that in 2020-21, Tacoma Public Schools served a student population that was 64% students of color with a teacher workforce that was 20% of color.
And, according to an analysis published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, Washington ranks high nationally in the rate of underqualified teachers employed per 10,000 students.