Sandra Jones: One Solution to the Teacher Shortage? Growing Your Own
Writing for The Progressive, Sandra Jones looks at the ways that some states are dealing with difficulties filling teaching positions.
In Virginia, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin recently launched a social media and advertising campaign called “Become a teacher.” Its intent is to bring educators on board “without necessarily going through the traditional degree and licensure process,” a local news station reported.
And Virginia isn’t the only state that, desperate to fill teaching jobs, has decided to relax the requirements needed to teach. Some states, including Arizona and Florida, “have gone one step further by lifting the requirement that teachers hold bachelor’s degrees in certain instances,” Education Week reports.
In Arizona, new teacher hires can enter training programs without a bachelor’s degree if they are enrolled in college and are supervised by a licensed teacher; Florida is offering military veterans a five-year teaching certificate, if they have “at least sixty college credits with a 2.5 grade point average and can pass a state exam to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject matter.”
The policy of lowering teacher qualifications is especially pervasive in Southern states. An article in the Dallas Morning News, for example, highlighted a study by the Southern Regional Education Board that found that, during the 2019 to 2020 school year, 4 percent of teachers in eleven Southern states “were uncertified or teaching with an emergency certification. In addition, 10 percent were teaching out of field.”
Teachers and policy experts question the wisdom of putting untrained individuals at the head of classrooms filled with school children. As Quigley notes, “putting inexperienced teachers in the classroom will only exacerbate the problem.” Similarly, research from the Learning Policy Institute underscored how “teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains” and that “gains in teacher effectiveness associated with experience are most steep in teachers’ initial years, but continue to be significant as teachers reach the second, and often third, decades of their careers.”
But some states are considering a better alternative–growing their own new teachers.
These initiatives—made up of partnerships between school districts, community-based organizations, and colleges—are designed to recruit community members to teach in local pre-K-12 schools, and most of these programs are geared toward introducing high school students to the field in an effort to reflect the communities they serve.
According to James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, an effective GYO program can, over time, lessen the teacher shortage and diversify the profession. “They’re good strategies for giving us much-needed increased diversity in our teaching force,” Fedderman says, “because if you’re encouraging your own students to look into teaching careers, you’ll probably increase the likelihood that your young teachers will look like your area’s students.”
Fedderman tempers his enthusiasm for GYO programs by adding that they likely will not be a replacement for the traditional new teacher supply line. Also, this is not to say GYO programs don’t come with potential pitfalls.