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Changing the Narrative about Teaching through Stories of Transformation

Teacher Stories (written in cursive)I spent most of my career as a teacher educator and nothing has been more disheartening than the precipitous decline in the number of people across the country wanting to enter the teaching profession. In California, where I worked for the California State University (CSU), applications for credential programs dropped by 50% over a recent five-year period beginning about 2008. While application numbers are beginning to increase, we have a long way to go as the dwindling supply of new teachers has been a key contributor to severe teacher shortages adversely affecting students in most states.

What does this say about a democratic nation that cannot ensure that every student has access to a well-prepared teacher?

A big part of the problem, of course, is the pernicious narrative about the profession itself that causes many excellent would-be candidates to choose other career paths. In 2016, I helped found EduCorps, a systemwide teacher recruitment initiative designed to tell a more accurate and compelling story about the teaching profession. Since its inception, credential program staff at many of CSU’s 23 campuses have asked university and community college professors to nominate students they consider promising candidates for the teaching profession. These nominees have shown up in great numbers at celebration of teaching events where they hear about the rewards and the challenges of teaching from former credential students working in local schools.

A Toolkit for Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion

Those who prepare future generations of classroom teachers are well-positioned to promote equity, inclusion, and social justice, but in doing so they must address two significant challenges.

First, they must adopt targeted recruitment strategies to ensure that all PK-12 schools have adequate pools of new teachers from which to choose. This, along with equally important efforts within the PK-12 community to reduce turnover of existing teachers, will eliminate the persistent shortages of well-qualified teachers that deprive many students, especially the most vulnerable ones, of a quality education. In addition to boosting enrollments, teacher educators must also ensure that their candidates resemble the demographics of the PK-12 students they will teach. Over time, this will close the widening diversity gap that exists between students and their teachers in many of the nation’s public schools. As research has shown, this will help close the achievement gap, reduce high school dropout rates, and lead more students to pursue college degrees.[1]

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