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Tennessee Grow Your Own Center Awarded $1.8M Grant to Tackle State’s Teacher Shortage

The Tennessee Grow Your Own Center, a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and the University of Tennessee System, has been awarded a $1.8 million grant over two years by Ascendium Education Group to strengthen the teacher talent development pipeline across Tennessee, by increasing the number of individuals enrolling in teacher education programs and improving the retention of existing teachers. 

The grant will fund the development of the Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program of Study (RTAPS) which will be an online curriculum developed by faculty fellows in the Institute for Competency-Based Teacher Education (ICBTE). This program provides Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs) and Local Education Agency (LEA) leaders with secure access to standards-based curriculum, that includes topics such as planning for instruction, family and community collaboration, and learner development. 

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of Ascendium Education Group. These funds equip EPPs to create flexible, high-quality, low-cost educator preparation pathways that are accessible to aspiring educators from every community. Funding also provides opportunities to use virtual simulations to enhance teacher skill development,” said Erin Crisp, executive director of the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center. 

“The high-quality, online curriculum developed through this grant not only helps strengthen Tennessee’s Grow Your Own programs but also contributes to the overall enhancement of our K-12 education system,” said Dean Prentice Chandler, Austin Peay State University. 

Sixteen faculty fellows from institutions across the state, including UT System campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, and Pulaski, alongside Austin Peay State University, Middle Tennessee State University, and Lipscomb University, are collaborating to create the online curriculum for the RTAPS program. 

“The collaborative nature of this project is a significant strength. By sharing the online content among various colleges and universities, the project encourages cross-institutional partnerships and the exchange of ideas,” said Dean Ellen McIntyre, University of Tennessee Knoxville. 

“Teacher apprentices spend at least a year gaining full-time, real-world experience before entering classrooms of their own. That hands-on training, coupled with high-quality coursework, produces excellent results. This funding will greatly expand those opportunities and create a new pipeline of experienced teachers for Tennessee’s school districts,” said Commissioner Deniece Thomas, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 

Grow Your Own programs are built from partnerships between school districts and EPPs statewide, alleviating many financial challenges of becoming a teacher, ensuring high-quality preparation, and building community representation in local educator workforces. 

As part of the state’s Grow Your Own Initiative, Tennessee’s registered teacher apprenticeship model aligns leading practices in teacher preparation and development with the rigors of the national registered apprenticeship process. 

Visit the University of Tennessee’s website for more information about the Tennessee Grow Your Own program and its initiatives. 

 About the UT System 
The University of Tennessee System is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, Memphis, and Pulaski; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT System manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 54,000 students statewide; produces about 13,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 445,000 alumni around the world. 

About Ascendium Education Group 
Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates, and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color, and veterans. Ascendium’s work identifies, validates, and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system, and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit https://www.ascendiumphilanthropy.org. 

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