States Can Lead on Teacher Recruitment Pipelines

By Dan Brown, Co-Director of Educators Rising, Aug 06, 2015

Our patchwork teacher recruitment pipeline is insufficient.

Only 5 percent of high school students taking the ACT exam said they intended to pursue a career as an educator. Enrollments in teacher preparation programs are down across the nation. Simultaneously, the demand is expanding through increasing retirements and student populations, requiring nearly 350,000 new hires  for K-12 teaching positions each year.

And we’re counting on these million new teachers to be highly skilled, well-prepared professionals. We know that when teachers aren’t adequately prepared and built to last, students—especially the most vulnerable—feel the long-term consequences.

Given the complexity of the issue and the need for a systemic solution, a key question emerges: Who will strengthen and own the teacher pipeline?

The next generation of every community’s educators—whom everyone is counting on to shoulder major responsibilities and to perform at high levels—is sitting on the student side of the desks right now.

Young people are ready to test-drive a job rooted in making an impact; adults need to align the opportunities, so they can try out teaching before the pressure of selecting a college or major. We need to start early to hook more young people on this innovative, impactful potential of teaching.

State departments of education are best positioned to partner with high-quality educator preparation programs to facilitate a coherent teacher recruitment pipeline, with a proactive focus targeting secondary students as prospective educators. This means implementing high-school-based career academies and co-curricular pathway programs, featuring rigorous courses taught by expert teacher leaders and culminating in a clinical internship.

To date, these grow-your-own and future educator programs have existed largely off the radar, struggling for positioning in the career and technical education realm. Each community, motivated by the goals of meeting local needs and increasing diversity in the teaching workforce, often finds itself reinventing the wheel.

It’s a new day, and grow-your-own-programs for high school students are finally having a moment in the sun. Some bright spots:

  • Boston University (BU) is partnering with Educators Rising to support the creation of elective courses in three Boston-area high schools for academic year 2015–16. BU is providing faculty, staff, students, curriculum, and facilities to support the high school teacher leaders and students. New Mexico State University is launching a similar partnership with Educators Rising, and representatives from 39 districts attended a planning meeting last month.
  • The Teacher Academy of Maryland program, a partnership between the Maryland State Department of Education and Towson University, provides curriculum and professional development for teacher leaders to deliver a four-semester pathway program, culminating in a semester-long clinical internship, with opportunities for dual credit and scholarships. Currently, 2,100 students in 18 of Maryland’s 24 districts participate.
  • In a dire 2015 report on educator recruitment and retention, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) presented one of its top recommendations: “Develop high school programs such as Future Educators [now rebranded Educators Rising] to encourage students to evaluate the field of education as they review their options for post-secondary studies.” ADE has assigned a dynamic program specialist, Rachael Mann, to work full-time directing Educators Rising in Arizona, prompting a 55 percent increase in participation—to nearly 1,400 students—across the state in one year, along with solid partnerships with institutions of higher education.
  • Each year, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) offers each high school in the district two Future Teacher Awards. Each recipient receives a provisional contract to become a VBCPS teacher upon completion of a degree in an approved teacher education program. Principals select high school students who have excelled in their co-curricular Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow or Early Childhood Education program. The awards create a healthy competition and prestige for local, aspiring teachers. The program was established in 2008; awardees who have finished college and come back to VBCPS to teach have been treated like rock stars, with principals lining up and down the hall for them at hiring fairs.

The talent and expertise we need to pay forward to the next generation is already in our school system. State departments of education can take a proactive role in prioritizing and resourcing grow-your-own teacher recruitment efforts at the district level. The teacher recruitment pipeline involves so many stakeholders that it has been hard to know who should take ownership over evolving it. The moment is right for states to take the lead on this crucial effort for our workforce’s capacity and sustainability.

Now it’s your turn. We want to hear your thoughts.

  1. What existing strategies or plans in your state support teacher recruitment pipelines?
  2. What unintended benefits or consequences would result from cultivating a cadre of students in every high school in America who really see behind the curtain on quality teaching and learning?
  3. What barriers exist to implementing co-curricular, grow-your-own programs in your state, and how might these barriers be overcome?

Dan Brown is a National Board Certified Teacher and Co-Director of Educators Rising, a newly launched national network of aspiring teachers and their mentors. Follow him on twitter @danbrownteacher.

Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.