Arizona hopes to lure more young adults and those who are switching career fields into the teaching profession by offering free college tuition for every year they teach in the state, The Arizona Republic reports.
Gov. Doug Ducey announced the Arizona Teaching Academy this week as an effort to fill some of the 1,300 vacant teaching positions in the state. Many other positions are currently being filled by those who don’t have the adequate credentials.
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 Arizona Teaching Academy is the latest example of the measures states and districts are taking to respond to teaching shortages. Other strategies across the country have included new marketing plans, housing incentives, and even a bill in California to provide paid maternity leave for teachers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, schools in almost all states are reporting shortages, especially in math, special education and science.
A report by the Learning Policy Institute issued a year ago attributed the growing shortages to several trends, including growth in student enrollments, high teacher attrition rates, and a decline in the number of people entering the field. It noted that the biggest contributor to turnover is when teachers leave the field before retirement, often due to a lack of job satisfaction. High teacher turnover in schools, especially those in high-need communities, also leads to lower student achievement, studies show.
While administrators might not be able to do a lot about how many college students choose teaching as a career, they can have a big impact on working conditions for teachers in their buildings. Many states and districts now use the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning survey from the New Teacher Center to better understand how teachers feel about issues such as having a manageable workload, access to high-quality professional development and professional autonomy in their schools. The growing opportunities for teachers to take leadership positions in their schools without leaving the classroom indicate that many administrators are working to support teachers’ interests. Strong mentoring programs and opportunities for peer collaboration are other factors that contribute to retention.