The first blog of this series revealed that there has been a growing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention over the last decade across the country. The second blog looked at challenges and potential solutions for teacher recruitment and retention in Michigan. The third blog summarized the findings and implications of a 2021 U.S. Department of Education and Michigan Department of Education study on supports that are associated with higher teacher retention in Michigan. This last blog in the series will highlight the potential success of Grow Your Own programs to recruit young teachers in Michigan.
Recruit young teaching talent through Grow Your Own programs
As noted in the second blog of this series, the number of enrollments in and completions of teacher preparation programs in Michigan have been on the decline in the last decade. Given that young people in Michigan (and nationally) are not considering education careers because of heavy workloads, low pay, and the politicization of teaching, among other reasons, how can states adequately recruit and retain young teaching talent? Grow Your Own programs are one solution that has been proposed and seeing some success.
Grow Your Own is a nationwide phenomenon that seeks to help schools recruit future educators from among their students. Rather than exclusively seeking teachers from outside of a school and its community, Grow Your Own initiatives focus on working with young people interested in careers in education and provide them with pathways toward becoming certified teachers and education professionals.
One prominent example comes from Illinois where the Grow Your Own Teachers organization works with state universities and local schools to develop pathways for students to become teachers, especially racially diverse individuals.
As the Grow Your Own Illinois’ website states, “Our goal is to return teachers back home where [racially diverse students] can be leaders inside and outside classrooms. In large cities, rural areas, and everywhere in between, students deserve teachers with whom they can identify, connect, and excel.”
By providing students opportunities to connect with teachers and mentors in their communities as well as financial, academic, and social-emotional resources, Grow Your Own Teachers is paving the way for young people to have positive experiences and support going into a teaching career that may not have felt possible or desirable.
An important element of Grow Your Own programs like that found in Illinois is the creation of a long-term community of support that offers mentoring, advice, and effective practices, especially once participants embark on certified teaching roles. It is one thing to encourage young people to become teachers, but it is another to make young people feel like they are on a career path that is supported and enjoyable, worthwhile, and financially feasible.
Grow Your Own Programs in Michigan
In January 2022, as part of the Future Proud Michigan Educator Initiative, which seeks to grow and diversify Michigan’s educator workforce, the Michigan State Board of Education recommended grants to initiate and support Grow Your Own programs in Michigan’s K-12 schools.
Under Michigan’s Grow Your Own Personnel Grant Program, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), Public School Academies (PSAs), and Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) can apply to receive up to $10,000 “to support non-certified employees working toward initial teacher certification or currently certified teachers looking to add an additional endorsement to a Michigan teaching certificate.” The idea for these grants is to help prospective students become teachers and encourage existing teachers to expand their expertise to meet school and community needs.
In addition to applying for state grants, some high schools offer courses that help young people better understand the education field and opportunities to become teachers. One such program is East Kentwood High School’s Educators Rising two-year course where students observe teachers, study student learning styles, and facilitate lessons to groups of their peers.
As a recent Chalkbeat Detroit article notes about East Kentwood’s program, students realize their strengths in “leading class discussions, crafting lesson plans, and building relationships with students.” Students also learn about “professionalism, bias and equity, small group instruction, classroom management, lesson sequencing, culturally responsive teaching, and assessing learning.”
East Kentwood’s program is part of the Educators Rising nationwide network of affiliates that seek to support students, especially students of color, in learning about and honing the skills necessary for a teaching career. As Chalkbeat Detroit describes, such programs are not necessarily new, as long-standing programs such as the Future Educators Association (originally called Future Teachers of America), was founded in 1937.
Other promising programs are developing in Michigan, including schools building their own future teachers curricula. For example, Wyoming High School developed a teaching-focused course; Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District created a Future Educator Academy; and Detroit Public Schools Community District launched its Rise to Teach Initiative.
As leaders across the state of Michigan grapple with the challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers to fill vital and essential roles in our communities, there is hope that young people will be drawn to a meaningful career in education through Grow Your Own programs. Although these programs’ impact on Michigan’s teacher recruitment challenges has yet to be seen fully, one sees optimistic signs ahead.
As Shawn White, a student from East Kentwood High School, said about his experiences in participating in a Grow Your Own Program, “This class opened another door, another opportunity. Teaching is something I could see myself going into.” Let’s hope that other students have similar meaningful experiences and feel ready to take on the important role of being an educator in the state of Michigan.
Aguilar, R. (2020, December 2). The importance of Grow Your Own programs to recruit teachers of color. The Education Trust. https://edtrust.org/the-equity-line/the-importance-of-grow-your-own-programs-to-recruit-teachers-of-color/
Educators Rising. (n.d.). Who we are. https://educatorsrising.org/who-we-are/
Gist, C., Bianco, M., & Lynn, M. (2019). Examining grow your own programs across the teacher development continuum: Mining research on teachers of color and nontraditional educator pipelines. Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 70(1): 13–25. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0022487118787504
Grow Your Own Teachers. (n.d.). What we do. https://growyourownteachers.org/what-we-do
Michigan Department of Education. (n.d.). Future Proud MI Educator. https://www.michigan.gov/mde/services/ed-serv/educator-recruitment/future-proudmieducator
Michigan Department of Education. (n.d.). Grow-Your-Own Programs School Personnel Grant. https://www.michigan.gov/mde/services/ed-serv/educator-recruitment/future-proudmieducator
Michigan Department of Education. (2021). Data for the goal: Increase the number of certified teachers in areas of shortage. https://www.michigan.gov/-/media/Project/Websites/mde/2021/11/12/Goal_7_-_Increase_Number_of_Teachers_Data_Sheet.pdf?rev=82b92c67cb3345ab80eee549f7eb7382
The Education Trust. (n.d.). Handout: Understanding the national shortage of teachers of color. https://edtrustmain.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/25142130/Handout_Teacher-Diversity-National-Fact-Sheet.pdf
The author would like to thank Christa Green, Kristen DeBruler, and Tracy Gieseking from the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute for their contributions and advice in developing this blog post.
Teacher recruitment & retention in Michigan
This series explores the challenges facing Michigan education and solutions that might help recruit and retain educators.