March 18, 2019
In recent weeks there has been a flurry of publications about teacher shortages, educator preparation and the growing student-teacher diversity gap. The crux of this research is that the teacher workforce is not being adequately prepared to meet the needs of an increasingly racially and linguistically diverse student population.
Grow Your Own (GYO) programs are being promoted as a strategy for ameliorating local teacher shortages and for increasing the racial and linguistic diversity of the teacher workforce. New America defines GYO as partnerships between educator preparation programs, school districts, and community organizations that recruit and prepare local community members (e.g., parents, paraeducators, uncertified school staff, high school students) to enter the teaching profession and teach in their communities.
Currently, 31 states and the District of Columbia report teacher shortages in the areas of bilingual, dual language immersion and English as a Second Language. This is a problem given the growing numbers of English learner (EL) students in U.S. schools — ELs make up nearly 10 percent of K-12 enrollment and an estimated 32 percent of the early childhood (birth to 8) population. Research suggests that ELs are best served in bilingual education programs that provide them with the opportunity to continue mastering their home language while simultaneously developing proficiency in English.
But, in order to increase access to effective language programs, states and districts must invest in the development of bilingual educators.
For the past three years, we have been engaged in research focused on the role GYO programs could play in stemming bilingual teacher shortages. Our work has focused on strategies for helping bilingual paraeducators enter the teaching profession and has highlighted the barriers they may face along the way. We have spotlighted GYO programs as an approach that can remove barriers and open up pathways into the profession. More recently, we have begun to explore the wide range of GYO programs across the nation and key elements of their design.
Today, we are releasing a set of essential policies and practices to help guide states and school districts in their efforts to develop high-quality GYO programs for bilingual educators. Developed in collaboration with New America’s GYO Advisory Group, this resource is undergirded by research on how GYO programs remove barriers and promote the persistence of linguistically and racially diverse teacher candidates within educator preparation programs.
The five policies set the enabling conditions to help get GYO programs off the ground and baseline metrics to ensure program quality, while the five practices outline steps that local programs can take to foster the success of program candidates. Taken together, they represent a first step in helping bilingual teacher candidates learn the skills and competencies needed to thrive in the teaching profession and help their students be successful.