- Now in the third year of its grow-your-own apprenticeship program, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee is set to completely eliminate teacher vacancies across the district, state Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said during an Education Commission of the States webinar last month.
- In the 2019-2020 school year, the district faced a shortage of 80 teachers, including a critical deficit in elementary and special education certified teachers, Schwinn said. With the third cohort of teacher apprenticeships, she said there are now twice as many teacher candidates in the program as teaching spots available.
- The emerging success of the Clarksville-Montgomery apprenticeship program targeting paraprofessionals and high school students as future educators comes as similar grow-your-own models gain popularity nationwide to try to tackle the teacher shortage.
“Not only is it having really well-trained teachers who understand the district culture and climate, the expectations,” Schwinn said, "but they’re able to have a much broader pool to select from and make really smart decisions about who needs to be in which classroom.”
The district, in partnership with Austin Peay State University, launched the first registered grow-your-own teacher apprenticeship program approved by the U.S. Department of Labor to establish a permanent model in January. Tennessee currently has 65 grow-your-own partnerships, which include 14 educator preparation providers and 63 districts.
To make an apprenticeship program work, it’s important to collaborate with many partners like local and state workforce boards, educator preparation providers, district leaders, the state department of education, aspiring educators and school communities, Schwinn said.
Overall, permanent funding should be prioritized in states looking to establish these residency programs so aspiring educators can have living stipends, said Karen DeMoss, executive director of Prepared to Teach, which is part of Bank Street College of Education in New York and provides funding to support teacher preparation programs.
In Clarksville-Montgomery, the district provides a living wage to training teachers who work as instructional aides under the mentorship of a master teacher for two years while they complete a bachelor’s degree in teaching at no cost within three years.
“This isn’t about diluting, this isn’t about trying to get a fast pass to becoming a teacher,” Schwinn said. “This is about saying we think there is a better way to have stronger teachers on day one for kids that also appropriately compensates and supports teachers in the way that they need.”
Teaching apprenticeships in the state are sustainably funded by employers, DeMoss said. That's unlike teacher residency programs, which are not always funded and, if they are, are usually funded through short-term grants, DeMoss said during the webinar.
Teachers coming from residency or apprenticeship programs are 90% more likely to remain in the same school during the third year of their teaching career, DeMoss added. In fact, more than 80% of those teachers are still in their district in their fifth year, she said.
DeMoss encouraged states considering teacher residency programs to frame the initiative as addressing staffing needs and supporting broader school improvement goals. It’s important to ensure on-the-job training alongside instruction for aspiring teachers, so a strong partnership is needed between those two efforts, she said.
Incentivizing grow-your-own programs through available grants can increase access to the teaching field in rural or lower-income communities, she said. On top of that, teaching candidates are more likely to come from diverse backgrounds if they are trained through grow-your-own programs, DeMoss added.