In a state where a September survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association revealed 25% of teaching positions were vacant and about half of teachers lacked certification requirements, the Vail School District is taking advantage of a state bill signed into law in 2017 that allows schools to both train aspiring teachers and issue credentials to them, The 74 reports.
The law coordinates with an education plan launched by the Arizona Chamber Foundation, which received a $50,000 seed grant from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2014 and began working with educators to translate business principles of the agency's Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Initiative to help build up the teacher talent pipeline — especially to hard-to-staff schools.
The new teacher licensing law still requires a college degree, two years of classroom experience, and data showing teachers were effective at promoting adequate academic growth. A survey of leaders in the state's high-performing schools revealed most felt they could prepare educators for their schools' needs better than the training provided by external sources, and Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker said the program is creating a “community of learners” with educators who have valuable perspectives and real-world experiences to offer.
Arizona educators went on strike last year, demanding better overall school funding in addition to better pay for teachers and other school employees. Teachers in Los Angeles are now on strike and Denver may soon follow suit as a new wave of protests seems to be building after last year's demonstrations. Adequate teacher pay, crowded classrooms, and stressful working conditions are just a few reasons for the teacher shortage impacting many of the nation's schools and districts, especially in specialized subject areas like the STEM fields.
As a result, state lawmakers and education leaders are scrambling for new ways to get certified teachers in classrooms. Some districts are turning to alternative certification programs or reaching out to paraprofessionals with ways to become certified. Others are looking at additional grow-your-own options and incentives to build the pipeline.
While some of these methods are controversial and may be opposed by some teacher unions, school districts are forced to try new methods when the old ways fail. Programs like those in Arizona seem to be focusing on acquiring teachers with a positive record of student achievement despite their non-traditional path to accreditation. If some of these innovative programs produce effective teachers and increase student achievement in the long run, they may offer new solutions that can be replicated in other states and districts across the nation.