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Deeper Dive panel examined winning strategies to address teacher shortage in diverse communities

Teacher shortages vary across the country by subject area, but the shortage is worst in high-minority, low-income schools, in lower wage states, and in districts with poorer working conditions. This topic was explored during a “Deeper Dive” session at the AACTE 2019 Annual Meeting titled “Successful Strategies for the Teacher Shortage.”

Jessica Cardichon of the Learning Policy Institute led the panel discussion, which included Patricia Alvarez McHatton (University of Texas), Selma Powell, (University of Washington), and Mario Santos (Newark Public Schools). Each participant shared their strategies for addressing the teacher shortage in three critical areas: recruitment, completion, and retention.

The discussion examined how teacher shortages make it challenging to implement and sustain school improvement efforts, to build teacher capacity in ways that support student achievement, to develop strong teacher-student relationships, and to provide multiple pathways that prepare students for college and a career.

Powell, director, Special Education Teacher Education Program at the University of Washington, shared how her institution is being creative about funding for special education—having developed direct partnerships with Seattle school districts to supplement the tuition of students in return for a service commitment. This has allowed them to embed field work in the employment pathway while promoting recruitment. Their recruitment efforts focus on preparing students for participation in a program that lead to employment—to ensure that they are prepared to be successful. Powell reported that most of the graduates of the program start working at the $60,000 level with zero debt. 

“Our college has made a commitment to offer graduate student assistantships to individuals who work in our lab school, the experimental education unit. That number fluctuates between 5-8 students and those students also work as instructional assistants as they get their tuition paid and make a salary while they go through our program,” said Powell. “Their field work is also embedded into their employment and it has made us have to think differently about what field work looks like for those candidates.”

Research shows that teachers of color help to boost academic performance, attendance rates, and school climate. However, teachers of color are also twice as likely to enter teaching through an alternative certification pathway, which is associated with having higher turnover rates. To address this challenge, the panel and attendees discussed strategies for promoting high-retention pathways into teaching, such as service scholarships, loan forgiveness, and mentoring, as well as developing high-quality school principals, competitive pay and recruitment policies. 

McHatton, executive vice president for academic affairs, student success, and P-16 integration at the University of Texas, spoke about achieving program completion in Hispanic-serving institutions. They found that there were four things that must exist in order to ensure that their students progress though the school of education program: an ethic of care, community, agency, and inquiry. The university entered into an agreement with their students that if they met all the requirements of the program, the school guaranteed that the students will graduate in four years or the school would pay their tuition. 

“There is research that already indicates if students complete certain courses in their first year, they are more likely to continue and be retained in future years,” said McHatton. “We have our students engaged in high-impact practices, we have them explore career development from the first year they are with us, we ensure that they have strong advising peer and mentor faculty, and that they take critical path courses along their continuum.”

Santos, Newark Board of Education assistant superintendent, discussed retention in New Jersey where he helped create the “Urban Teachers Residency Program” at East Side High School. The focus of the program is to get excellent teachers into the classroom and to change the culture of the once failing school. It was a successful collaboration with Montclair State University and Newark Public schools, which substantially reversed the educational success of its students.

“A powerful element of our program was when the university professors came into East Side High School and began redesigning their courses to the needs of East Side,” said Santos.  

Montclair is currently collaborating with the city, the Newark school system, and the American Federation of Teachers to create a teacher academy at the high school as a pipeline for recruiting teachers for Newark public schools. Graduates of East Side High School will enroll in Montclair to study education and afterwards, they will be guaranteed a position in a Newark Public School. 

The panel session concluded with an interactive discussion among attendees on ways to potentially operationalize the ideas that surfaced during the presentation. A video recording on this Deeper Dive session, “Successful Strategies for the Teacher Shortage,” is available to Annual Meeting attendees at www.aacte.org. Additional video recordings of the General Sessions and all Deeper Dives from the 71st Annual Meeting may be accessed in the AACTE Resource Library.

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