For three decades, New York City has been successful with recruiting and retaining Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers through a unique program known as the Success Via Apprenticeship (SVA) Program. The SVA program, originally called the Substitute Vocational Assistant Program, was established in 1984 as a collaborative project of the New York City Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) which is the teachers’ union, and the City University of New York (CUNY). The program was designed to prepare highly motivated graduates of CTE high schools to become CTE teachers.
The SVA program is composed of three components:
- Teaching Internship
- Industrial Work Experience
- Post-Secondary Academic Study
In the teaching internship component of the program, participants spend five months, referred to as a term, in a CTE high school. While in the school, the SVA is assigned to a mentor teacher under whom the intern learns about unit and lesson planning, lesson presentation, classroom management, and school dynamics. Right from the first year, the intern is given ample opportunity to plan and teach lessons under the guidance and supervision of the mentor. Each intern is required to teach for one full semester under supervision during the third or fourth year to fulfill the student teaching requirement for State certification.
Career and technical education subject teachers seeking the initial teaching certificate in New York State must have a minimum of three years of full-time work experience. In order to meet this requirement through the work experience component of the SVA, participants are placed with employers in business and industry in work environments that match each participant’s career or trade area. Over the years, program administrators have developed a network of employers in business, industry, and government agencies as job sites for placement of participants. These include automotive service shops, electrical contractors, electronics and computer service companies, hospitals, and museums, among many others. Each participant completes a set of internships, at various worksites, in year length time periods. The work experience is supervised by on-the job trainers and closely monitored by a program administrator who makes regular visits to the job site to evaluate the participants’ progress.
In the post-secondary academic study also known as the college component; participants are enrolled in teacher education courses at New York City College of Technology. Each participant is required to complete 44 credits of coursework during the five years in the program (a total of 62 credits is required for State certification). The curriculum consists of courses in liberal arts and sciences, professional courses in career and technical education, and student teaching.
Program administrator involvement and regular meetings are among the unique aspects of the program. Program administrators handle the recruitment, interviews, placement, and supervision of participants in school and job sites. They conduct regular school site and job site visits and evaluations of all participants. In addition, program partners, administrators and participants meet during mandatory meetings. Administrators deliver reports on various components of the program including school sites, work sites, etc. The college representative also reports on general college and academic matters affecting participants. At each meeting, a selected group of participants make presentations on topics of interest to them. The required dress code for all participants is business attire.
Elements of Program Success
The SVA program has been very successful in recruiting, preparing, and retaining young CTE teachers in the New York City public high school system. This success is attributable to four key factors, namely; compensation, contractual commitment, administrator involvement, and high performance expectations. The high schools from which participant’s graduate play a crucial role in identifying students who have the interest and potential to succeed as CTE educators. By working with the schools, SVA program administrators not only know subject areas where there are potential shortages, they are also able to project need and identify potential replacements. While enrolled in the program, participants are paid 90% of the contractual salary rate for a starting teacher (currently $45, 000 per year). The salary rate is very competitive and, in some cases, far exceeds what a recent college graduate earns in certain jobs and, certainly, the annual salary of a high school graduate. As employees of New York City Department of Education, program participants are also eligible for many of the benefits that a certified teacher is entitled to under the teachers’ union contract, including pension, health, dental and optical insurance, as well as annual leave benefits. Successful program completion also means a higher salary step at initial full-time employment as a certified teacher.
The SVA program also pays participants’ college tuition and fees for course work leading to the New York State initial teaching certificate. Many participants take advantage of this educational opportunity and complete the Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S. Ed.) degree within the five years of participating in the SVA program. In return for all the benefits of participating in the SVA program, each participant is required to sign a letter of commitment to work for five years as a CTE teacher in New York City public schools. If a participant who successfully completes the program but fails to meet the contractual obligation to work in New York City, the Department of Education has the recourse to seek reimbursement of all tuition and fees paid on behalf of the participant.
The SVA program has very high standards of performance and conduct in all three components. Participants must receive excellent evaluations by school site mentors, college supervisors, and work site supervisors to maintain their status in and successfully complete the program. In the college component, for example, participants are held to the same academic standards as other degree-seeking students of the teacher preparation program. They must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.50 in college courses or risk being dismissed from the program. Participants who receive poor evaluations in any of the three components of the program are brought before a personnel committee which handles all disciplinary problems and is comprised of program administrators and representatives of the teachers’ union. If a participant is found to be not meeting program standards of performance or conduct, he or she is placed on probation and given an opportunity to improve within one academic semester. If there is no improvement after one semester, the participant is dismissed from the program. Regarding evaluation of the overall program, the most recent data indicates that the program has been highly successful.