March 4, 2022

Nancy Bailey: Grow-Your-Own Apprenticeships Don’t Raise Pay or Prestige for Professional Teachers

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Nancy Bailey examines one of the current trends in expanding the teacher pipeline and finds… not much. Reposted with permission.

America’s children and teens need well-qualified professional teachers who study and specialize in the best universities, are paid fairly, and treated with respect, not Grow-Your-Own Apprenticeship programs to make fast-track learn-as-you-go classroom monitors. It’s hard to believe parents want apprentices not fully prepared teachers working with their children.

Grow-Your-Own Apprenticeship is not just a program to encourage young people to go into teaching or to address a teacher shortage. It changes the dynamics of teacher preparation.

Even before the pandemic, Tennessee and other states promoted teacher apprenticeships as a teacher pipeline into the workforce, described here by the State of Tennessee.

Apprenticeship programs are high-quality, industry-driven, work-based learning pathways that provide individuals with hands-on work experience while earning a wage that increases during the progression of the program. The Teacher Occupation Apprenticeship will provide a national model and permanent Grow Your Own pathway for Tennesseans to become teachers for free and obtain high-quality jobs in their own communities.

Groups supporting this in Tennessee include Chiefs for Change; Deans for Impact; Education Trust; National Center for Teacher Residencies; New America. Education Secretary Cardona is also on board.

Apprenticeships for professionals take us back to the 1800s before colleges began training professionals. How will the U.S. keep up with other countries that expect teachers to be professional?

Not to disparage the importance of an apprenticeship, but those are trade careers, an arrangement to get hands-on training, technical instruction, and a paycheck. Apprentices work for a sponsor, an individual employer, or a business-union partnership, who pays their wages and provides the training.

Careers lending themselves to apprenticeships include:

  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Ironworkers
  • Plumbers
  • Masonry workers
  • and more.

Education and teacher preparation is transferred from the public over to business partnerships. Will those partners dictate how and what teachers teach? Putting this in context with the long-time poor teacher treatment is especially troubling.

Professional teachers have spent time and money attending universities to become qualified, experienced teachers. Many are trying to get out from under the debt they incurred.

Recognize too that Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee also wants Educational Savings Accounts (vouchers), charter schools, and to partner with conservative, Christian college Hillsdale College.

They promote accelerating the state certification process. Making it easier to become a teacher doesn’t mean teachers will be better prepared. This started with NCLB.

What doesn’t seem planned is elevating teaching as a profession, offering better salaries, and working conditions to woo back the teachers who left during the pandemic. Salaries for teachers in one Tennessee county don’t amount to a living wage.

They encourage future teachers of color, but why would anyone want to become a teacher if the pay is poor and conditions lousy?

Some Tennessee universities create these accelerated programs, offering classes, but their role is unclear. It sounds like already exhausted teachers in schools will coach the newbies on their way out. The grant description has a broken link.

It smells like Teach for America. The education leader in Tennessee is from Teach for America.

If Tennesseans and the nation cared for teachers, they would have been kinder to them throughout the years.

Executive Director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee called the teacher shortage in Tennessee a “full-blown crisis.” From the Chalkbeat: “We’re driving people out of the profession faster than we can replace them.”

Teachers across the nation faced Value-Added Assessment evaluations focusing on high-stakes testing, poor working conditions, including large class sizes, and crummy school facilities. They’re increasingly blamed for curriculum changes, not in their control, and attempting to address critical social justice issues in good faith.

Local school districts have removed support staff, reducing and firing school nurses, librarians, counselors, school psychologists, and more. The pandemic added another layer of destruction.

Now, teachers are leaving, but not before they’re made to teach apprentices skills. The same teachers understand it takes much study to become a real teacher.

The $2 million in tuition, textbooks, and fees comes from Tennessee’s state reservation from Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocations.

In some places, Grow Your Own Apprentices involve high school students working with students in local high schools. They should be encouraged to attend college to obtain a degree.

It seems clear that this is not a program to pay current teachers more or elevate them as professionals. It raises critical questions about what kind of teachers children will have in the future.

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