How Minnesota is Growing Their Own Teachers

Minessota welcomes youMinnesota is home to an increasingly racially and linguistically diverse student population, yet the diversity of the state’s teacher workforce has remained stagnant. To help address this racial and linguistic match, school districts are partnering with educator preparation programs to develop and implement Grow Your Own programs that seek to recruit and prepare community-based teachers.

As outlined in a recent New America report, Minnesota is one of nine states in the country that offers a competitive GYO grant  designed to promote teacher residency programs for adult community members and opportunities for high school students to gain exposure to teaching as a career.  While the state provides funding, there are few directives about how GYO programs should be designed, reflecting the importance of local control and governance.

The programs featured in the report help showcase the variability of GYO, including differing levels of funding, distinct partnership structures, and varying candidate needs. The St. Paul Public Schools Urban Teacher Residency (SUTR) program provides district employees with a 15-month residency to earn a teaching license and masters degree from the University of St. Thomas. Residents spend four days a week working under the guidance of a master teacher while simultaneously taking coursework. They are also offered wraparound supports including a stipend, dental and health insurance, money for books, and tuition assistance. Many of the residents go on to become full-time teachers in St Paul Public Schools (SPPS), with 64 percent of those in the first two cohorts still working in the district after three years. In addition, SUTR’s first five cohorts ranged from 54 to 64 percent people of color compared to 20 percent of teachers overall in SPPS.

In the Southwest corner of the state, the community of Worthington has launched an ambitious program to help paraprofessionals, high school students and other community members become teachers. The Southwest Teacher Preparation Program is a partnership between Worthington Public Schools, Minnesota West Community and Technical College (MNWest), Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU), and the Southwest Initiative Foundation. The program design helps facilitate access for candidates by keeping coursework in the local community via MNWest and an SMSU satellite campus. In addition, paraprofessionals in the program keep their current positions (and pay) and receive flexibility to complete their residency requirements.

Minnesota’s GYO efforts offer a lens for examining how the strategy can be used to recruit, prepare and retain a more racially and linguistically diverse teacher workforce. President Biden’s budget proposal allocated $91 million in new funding for GYO and teacher residencies. But any funding should be designed to support high-quality GYO programs that promote partnerships between school districts and educator preparation programs, recruit linguistically and racially diverse individuals from the community and provide them with structured pathways to obtaining teacher licensure, targeted academic advising, financial assistance, and paid work experience under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Amaya Garcia is deputy director, PreK-12 at New America and Joseph Hood is a consultant at New America.

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