Diversifying the Teacher Workforce through Grow Your Own: A Snapshot of Three Programs

By Tara Zuber, Technical Assistance Support, GTL Center and Alex Berg-Jacobson, Technical Assistance Support, GTL Center, Mar 14, 2017

States and districts looking to strengthen and diversify their teacher pipelines have expressed a rising interest in “Grow Your Own programs.” Based on partnerships between states, districts, and preparation programs, these programs proactively recruit teacher candidates from local communities to join the profession and teach in their communities’ schools. Little information, however, is currently available on how these programs are being designed and implemented across the country.

Recently, several innovations have drawn renewed attention to the “Grow Your Own” approach. Earlier this year, the Educators Rising micro-credentials were launched to allow aspiring teachers from the high school ranks to earn credits for achievement toward their standards that define what high school students exploring teaching should know and be able to do. Meanwhile, last year the Washington Professional Educator Standards Board convened a work group to redesign the Recruiting Washington Teachers program. 

Yet little information is currently available on the various programs in place across the country.

To learn more about Grow Your Own programs, we spoke with Eric Duncan, former LEE Public Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education in November 2016.* Duncan recently completed a tour of three Grow Your Own programs in Denver, Colorado; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Chicago, Illinois. In this video series, Duncan describes the programs he visited, why Grow Your Own matters, what he learned from his tour, and useful highlights from each program visited.**

Video #1. What is a Grow Your Own Program? 

Video #2. Why Do Grow Your Own Programs Matter?

Video #3. What Were Your Big Takeaways from the Tour?

Program Spotlights

Video #4. Recruiting High School Students: Pathways to Teaching in Denver, Colorado

The Pathways to Teaching website has more information about their program, including a series of videos with participants discussing the program’s guiding principles.  

Video #5. A Dual Approach: Recruiting High School Students and Paraprofessionals in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (American Federation of Teachers)

The Oklahoma City program involves collaboration among the local American Federation of Teachers, Langston University, and Oklahoma City Public Schools. 

Video #6. A Community-led Approach Supported by the State: Grow Your Own Teachers in Chicago, Illinois

The mission of Grow Your Own (GYO) Illinois is to (a) support the education and excellent of GYO teacher candidates and graduates; (b) advocate for policies that facilitate increasing the number of teachers of color; and, (c) coordinate and align the work of innovative partnerships among universities, community colleges, school districts, and community organizers that make up GYO consortia across the state. Stories from teachers and candidates involved in GYO Illinois are available through the Teacher Testimony Project.

Now It’s Your Turn

Grow Your Own programs are just one example of new activities taking place to strengthen how our nation recruits teachers to fill shortages and diversify the profession.

  • What is your state or district doing to fill shortages and diversify the profession?
  • Have you participated in a Grow Your Own program? Tell us about your experience?

*Eric Duncan is now Director of District Initiatives at the National Council on Teacher Quality

**All visuals displayed within the videos were provided courtesy of the programs featured and, unless otherwise indicated, represent the program and it’s participants in general rather than any specific individual being discussed in the video narrative.

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