Our TK Expansion in Action blog series covers California’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) expansion in the 2022-23 school year through interviews with school districts and institutes of higher learning across the state to highlight strategies they have employed to make expansion successful. This is the seventh blog in the series.
Efforts are underway to ensure that California schools are prepared to provide universal access to Transitional Kindergarten (TK) by the 2025-26 implementation deadline. One area critical to the successful implementation of universal TK is increasing the number of educators qualified to teach in TK classrooms. It is currently estimated that the state will need 12,000-16,000 more lead TK teachers by the implementation date. To meet this need, UC Merced is leading an effort within the University of California (UC) system to attract and prepare more TK teachers to serve in classrooms in the Central Valley and across California through the development of the UC TK Residency Program.
The UC TK Residency Program is a cross-system effort to encourage regional collaboration to prepare the educator workforce for teaching in TK classrooms. The residency program is being developed with the support of grant funding from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. With this 2-year $3 million grant, the UC Merced Extension Teacher Preparation Program, in partnership with UC Berkeley and UCLA, is leading the creation of this new UC TK Residency Program which will be developed over the next year and officially launched in May 2024. The UC Office of the President has provided an additional $300,000 for the initiative to support fellowships for graduate-level teacher trainees, with a focus on underrepresented students, including students whose status falls under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The grant will cover the cost for teachers by providing them stipends to participate. The goal is to have 20 teacher candidates in each region, which includes the Central Valley, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles.
The residency program is being developed as UC Merced simultaneously works to develop its new PK-3 Credential program to ensure alignment and integration. The intent is to align these programs as much as possible to ensure students can meet clinical practice and coursework requirements for the PK-3 Credential while in the residency program.
Dr. Mari Harris, who is Director of Education Programs at UC Merced’s University Extension and leading the development of this residency program, underscores the importance of collaboration, calling it “the most critical component to success” of this program. Dr. Harris shared, “there are currently a lot of changes underway in our Early Learning and Care system and we need to be thoughtful and aware of how this is going to impact our existing and future Early Childhood educators.” Dr. Harris continued, “the establishment of the UC TK Residency Program provides an opportunity to be very intentional about how we design and articulate our programs to ensure that it meets the needs of our future TK workforce, while providing them with the competencies to cultivate high-quality Early Learning experiences for California’s children.”
The aim of the UC TK Residency Program is to provide a clear pathway, with built-in supports for students interested in teaching in TK and Early Childhood Education, including providing a teacher mentor for one year. The UC TK Residency Program highlights the opportunity for innovation and collaboration across systems in California to support our Early Learning workforce, and thereby our state’s youngest learners.