Friday April 8, 2022

Grow Your Own Educator Programs Part of the Solution

Grow Your Own Educator programs are not entirely new, but are gaining traction across the country, especially those focused on building diversity in the teacher workforce. The New America organization in Washington DC has organized a national network of Grow Your Own program providers who share ideas around best practices, policy and funding models. There are GYO programs happening in all 50 states, but there is a lot of variety among programs.

Most GYO programs are still too new to collect meaningful data on teacher retention and student outcomes, but that is coming. There is certainly data showing the value that teachers of color provide to students and there is early data showing that teachers recruited from their own community remain loyal to their school district, whether they were a student or a paraprofessional there before becoming a teacher. In fact, early national data shows an 88% retention rate over three years.

The Teacher Pipeline Programs led by the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation will have ten graduates as of May 2022. The first two participants. Linda and Alexiss Lopez (a mother-daughter duo) graduated from the Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program in 2019 and are still proudly teaching in Oklahoma City Public Schools. The Teacher Pipeline Programs consist of two distinct programs: The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program for bilingual paraprofessionals and the Diversity Teacher Pipeline Program for BIPOC paraprofessionals. The programs currently have 58 participants and are expanding to recruit high school students wishing to become teachers.

These programs provide complete funding for tuition, books and fees for OKCPS bilingual/BIPOC paraprofessionals to become certified teachers by attending college through partnerships with OSU-OKC, OCCC, Rose State College and UCO. Once they are certified teachers, they commit to staying with OKCPS for at least three years.

The Foundation currently raises all of the funding for these programs from private/corporate donors. OGE, Devon, Bank of America and the Potts Family Foundation have been long-time donors and believers in the value of this work. There is a workforce development component to building the teacher workforce and there is also a DEI component with the bilingual/BIPOC aspect.

Many of the programs throughout the country also utilize funding from their states and use of federal grants.

The Foundation’s Teacher Pipeline Programs could be emulated in other districts with the right champions and sustainable funding models. GYO programs are not the only answer to our state’s teacher shortage problems, but they are certainly part of the solution.

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