George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason offers a quicker path to teacher preparation degrees

June 27, 2019   /   by Damian Cristodero

It is hoped the new undergraduate program will help tackle Virginia's teacher shortage and make teaching careers more desirable to students from underserved communities. Photo by Max Taylor.

George Mason University is one of seven public institutions in Virginia that have been approved to offer four-year undergraduate degrees in teacher preparation.

Beginning in fall 2019, Mason, through its College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), will begin offering bachelor of science degrees in elementary education, special education and early childhood education for diverse learners.

They have been approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Virginia Board of Education.

Previously, most teacher preparation degrees in Virginia were earned in master’s programs. But a statewide teaching shortage—especially in early childhood education, elementary, secondary education–STEM and special education—and a desire to make teaching careers more attractive to students from underserved communities, helped prompt the change, Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said.

“It’s for the students,” said Qarni, who graduated from Mason in 2009 with a master’s degree in history and participated in the university’s teacher licensure program. “The fifth year of schooling required for a master's In education was a deterent to many educators finishing their full credential. Taking that barrier away and going to a four-year program makes teaching a more accesible career choice because it allows college students to apply their financial aid package directly to their licensure program. We hope that this change promotes greater diversity in the teaching profession, and are excited for Virginia’s students who will have access to the high-quality instructors who will come out of these programs.”

“We’re excited to begin,” CEHD dean Mark Ginsberg said. “We look forward to assisting, supporting and working with students to begin their careers in education.”

Integral to the development of those programs were Ginsberg, a leader in identifying ways to tackle the teacher shortage; CEHD associate dean Ellen Rodgers; assistant dean Iris Robinson; associate professor Pamela Baker (special education); professor Julie Kidd (early childhood education for diverse learners); associate professor Audra Parker (elementary education); and licensure coordinator Rebekah Flis.

“So it’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing,” Ginsberg said.

In developing the programs, Mason was careful to be true to its core principles of access and opportunity, Rodgers said.

Each of the new teacher preparation programs have been scheduled for launch in the ADVANCE program, a collaboration between Mason and Northern Virginia Community College that streamlines paths to a Mason degree while saving students money.

The programs also leave room for students to explore complementary aspects to their majors.

“The faculty tried to afford as much latitude as possible for students to add elective coursework that would enhance their employment opportunities,” Rodgers said. “For example, a student interested in special education or early childhood education may minor in American Sign Language. We have a wide range of minors at Mason that would well complement these education degrees.”

Students will also get plenty of hands-on experience, Rodgers said.

“We will get them in the schools from the start doing observations and field experiences while gaining hands-on experience,” she said.

“Schools are drivers of economic development,” Ginsberg said. “Schools are magnets for high-quality workers. The technologies have changed. Our understanding of what it takes to be successful in the classroom continues to evolve. But the single-most important ingredient in the success of schools and the ability of the workforce are teachers.”