The teacher shortage is nothing new to the state of Arizona, and it’s only getting worse. In fact, many individuals who are in classrooms across the state today do not have proper teaching credentials. They may have a bachelor’s degree but it may be in accounting or in philosophy rather than in education. It’s even worse in urban areas or in rural areas where attracting and keeping new teachers can be a huge challenge. At the time of this writing, the Alhambra School District in Phoenix currently has 15 openings for certified teachers and 73 openings for “classified” positions, the vast majority of which are in the area of special education. The Tucson Unified School District lists 84 current openings for certified teachers. Statewide, the job site Indeed.com indicates more than 3200 full-time teaching positions currently available in Arizona. Keep in mind that these openings are for the 2017-18 academic year which began about a month ago.
In an attempt to address this growing teacher shortage, Governor Doug Ducey has paved the way for a partnership between the state’s three public universities and community colleges called the Arizona Teachers Academy. A big component of the initiative provides forgivable tuition each year graduates teach in an Arizona school.
The new scholarship program, which will target those who are just entering college or those who are returning for a master’s degree, is expected to eventually bring 200 new teachers into the state’s schools, and the recipients will be able to attend one of Arizona’s three public universities. The Governor formally launched the new program on September 26.
While I certainly admire the Governor’s interest and support in addressing this critical shortage I don’t see it being the magic bullet that will fully meet the state’s current and future workforce challenges. In order to address those current and future needs an initiative must be scalable and it must involve more than three state universities as providers. It also must explore new models of preparing teachers – part of the reason for the shortage is an antiquated or excessive prep program. In order to address today’s needs, we must consider today’s solutions.
For example, why not revisit how long it takes to complete a teacher prep program? Why not look at paraprofessionals or long-term substitute teachers as individuals who have already demonstrated a propensity for success in the classroom and provide them with a residency-based program? Why not seriously consider a competency-based educational model? And, why should a teacher prep program be designed by education faculty who may not have been in a classroom for 20 years or more?
I have already thought about things like this, plus more. I believe I have created the framework for a model of preparing teachers with excellence in a way that’s unique to anything currently being offered in the United States. I’d love to partner with school districts, state departments of education, and higher education institutions who are interested in piloting this program. Interested in learning more? Reach out to me.