In the five years since Minnesota began statewide "Grow Your Own" grant programs to recruit teachers, the state has expanded educator preparation programs for paraprofessionals and high school students of color, according to a study released Wednesday by New America, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.
Flexibility for regional workforce needs and continual efforts to advocate for partnerships and funding helped the GYO programs around the state gain awareness and support, but the teacher workforce is still not representative of the student population. Only 4.3% of licensed teachers in the state are educators of color, compared to 33.5% of students of color, according to the 2019 Biennial Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand.
An understanding of the successes and challenges school systems across the country experience as they seek to recruit and retain a diversified teacher talent pool may help state and local K-12 programs better target funding and resources.
More than a year of changing instructional formats and struggling to engage students in learning during the global pandemic has raised the stress levels of teachers and increased concerns about teacher shortages, a RAND Corporation report said. A recent teacher survey cited in the report showed nearly half of teachers who identify as Black or African American said they were likely to leave their jobs at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
As schools plan and budget for pandemic recovery services, they should consider programming that increases teacher diversity and qualifications, the U.S. Department of Education recommends.
Educator racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity can positively impact school communities, including the academic and emotional well-being of students, according to the Teaching Profession Playbook, developed by 26 education-related organizations and published by the Partnership for the Future of Learning.
“It’s very hard for students to see themselves as teachers when we haven’t said ‘you can be a teacher’ from day one,” said Kleber Ortiz, an education faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, as quoted in the New America report.
Minnesota is one of nine states that has a statewide competitive grant for GYO program development and implementation. Since the 2016-17 school year, the state has allocated $1.5 million annually for the GYO grant program to fund the paraprofessional and high school pathways to boost the state’s supply of teachers, according to the New America report.
The Saint Paul Public Schools Urban Teacher Residency Program is a partnership between the Saint Paul-based University of St. Thomas and Saint Paul Public Schools to help paraprofessionals gain teacher training and credentials. In the district, 53% of paraprofessionals are “Black, Indigenous, and people of color,” compared to just 20% of SPPS licensed teachers, the report said.
The full teacher residency program, which is open to people who already have bachelor’s degrees, lasts 15 months and includes coursework over two summers, as well as on Mondays during the fall semester and Fridays during the spring. During the rest of the week, residents work with a trained teaching mentor. Candidates can earn a master’s in education and a Tier 3 teaching license. Participants must agree to teach for at least three years in the district after completing the program, the report said.
The program’s goal is to have 80% teaching candidates of color, which would align with the district’s 79% percent of students of color. The residency program’s first five cohorts were between 54% and 64% people of color, the report said.
Statewide, there is more demand for the GYO programs than available funding. For example, although $1.5 million is available annually, there were 18 applicants requesting more than $3 million in fiscal year 2020.
Organizers are working through this and other challenges, including potentially expanding the number of eligible districts and educators and creating another pathway for people who don’t have bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, there is discussion about requiring — instead of strongly encouraging — that grant funds go to prospective teachers of color, the report said.