Michigan to launch major teacher recruitment and training effort in fall
- A new effort is designed to help more community members and school workers become certified teachers
- The program covers tuition costs and provides mentorship as people pursue teacher certification
- Superintendents hope the program will increase teacher diversity and promote teacher retention
Michigan is betting big on a new effort to help people become teachers by covering learning expenses and providing mentorship from experienced teachers.
Talent Together, a state-funded group of 48 intermediate school districts, is working with nine university teacher preparation programs to train more people to become certified teachers in Michigan, beginning with a first group this fall.
The group is focused on training about 750 people for teaching careers, from those without bachelor’s degrees to those already certified as teachers but who want to broaden areas they are eligible to teach.
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Community members interested in working in a school setting, paraprofessionals, substitute teachers and current teachers are all possible candidates for the program.
Jack Elsey, CEO of Michigan Educator Workforce Initiative, a nonprofit helping lead Talent Together, told Bridge Michigan the coalition is working to train people for jobs in special education, early childhood, elementary education, secondary math and secondary science.
The group received over 1,250 applications from people interested in becoming teachers and close to 200 applications from certified teachers looking to expand their teaching options.
Michigan school district leaders have said finding enough qualified people to teach in their schools has become increasingly challenging.
In recent years, state leaders have approved funding for scholarships for college students who are learning to become teachers and providing stipends for student teachers who previously were unpaid as they worked alongside professional teachers in the classrooms. The Detroit chapter of Teach for America recently launched a program to retain and train 700 teachers in the next five years.
Some school districts initiated their own “grow your own” programs which aim to train existing school workers to become certified teachers. The state has provided grants to help with these programs.
Talent Together hopes to broaden that work.
Talent Together is targeted to receive $66.4 million from the state education budget lawmakers recently passed. Elsey said the funding is expected to help “close to a 1,000 people become teachers within the next several years.”
He expects about 350 prospective teachers will be working to finish their bachelor’s degrees and another 250 people who already have college degrees will work toward their initial teaching certification this upcoming school year. An additional 150 already-certified teachers will be working toward credentials to expand what grade level or subject area they can teach.
Berrien Regional Service Education Agency (RESA) Superintendent Eric Hoppstock told Bridge the group wants to open training to a “whole new population of teachers that had no way of coming into the system prior.”
Michigan participants will have their college tuition covered, will be allowed to work in their local district and receive mentorship support from teachers and Talent Together staff.
Participants are required to teach in their host school or district for at least five years.
Elsey said the group’s size helped the program secure lower tuition costs and flexibility from university programs to help increase student access to teaching programs.
Participants also have access to success coaches which will help them find the right education preparation program and provide other support as they go through the program.
They will be partnered with a mentor teacher, which leaders hope will help eliminate the daunting experience of being a first-year teacher. The group is also hiring 15 teacher leader facilitators to support the mentor and model teachers.
“We think that that is a recipe for having folks come out more ready and more stable financially to ...commit to teaching long term, we hope,” Elsey said.
Teachers are more likely to leave the profession in their first few years of teaching. And not all people who pursue a college degree for education complete the degree or become teachers.
Researchers at Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) found just 26 percent of Michigan public high school graduates who take an education course in one of the state’s 15 public universities continue to the student teaching stage.
“We have to figure out a better way to support people so not only do they start their degree, but they finish the degree,” Hoppstock told Bridge.
The group is working to get registered with the U.S. Department of Labor as an apprenticeship program, so participants earn money while they learn from in-classroom experiences.
Elsey said that allows apprenticeship participants to “come out with a lot of practice under their belts” while also being in a good financial position since they can earn a salary as an apprentice teacher.
Education Week reported in March there are now 16 states that have at least one registered apprenticeship program for teachers.
Tara Kilbride, assistant director for research at MSU’s EPIC, told Bridge it’s “hard to say” if the registered apprenticeship approach is the right way to ensure more people actually become teachers since these programs are still new in the education field.
She said there is “promising evidence” that teacher residency programs (that provide on-the-job training) and other alternative routes to teacher training have led to increased diversity in teacher candidates.
“An advantage of the registered apprenticeship model versus other types of teacher residency models is that there's a national standard and options for federal support in funding and wider networks of programs,” she said.
Naomi Norman, superintendent of Washtenaw Intermediate School District, told Bridge that Talent Together has the potential to diversify the state’s education workforce.
“We really need our educator workforce to match the communities in which we’re educating,” she said. “And one of the best ways to do that is to provide pathways into teaching for people from those communities.”
The MSU research, where Kilbride was one of the researchers, found that “the pool of prospective Michigan teachers becomes less diverse as candidates progress between the coursework, licensure, and employment stages.”
Black teacher candidates have a 54 percent pass rate for the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification while white, Asian and Latino test takers have a 90 percent, 87 percent and 83 percent pass rates, respectively, the MSU research said.
Talent Together aims to use success navigators and mentor teachers to better support people as they prepare for the certification test.
Tennessee became the first state in the country to have a federally-recognized teacher apprenticeship program. Elsey called that state’s work “inspiring.”
Knox County Schools in East Tennessee, a district with nearly 60,000 students and 91 schools, started its teacher apprenticeship program in January. Alex Moseman, executive director of talent acquisition, said there are about 35 people in the program.
The participants work in instructional assistant roles, take classes at the University of Tennessee—Knoxville and must demonstrate proficiency in core skills including communicating with students’ parents.
“I think that grow-your-own is a real opportunity for districts to lean in and capitalize on the fact that they have enormous networks,” Moseman said. “And there's enormous power in those networks. And they have the ability to really design a system that works for them specifically, and like (to) invite people in to support that work.”
Participants in Knox County Schools do not have to stay with the district after they complete the program. Moseman said he likes that approach because he believes it should be the district’s job to retain people rather than forcing them to stay.
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