What's the Difference Between Grow Your Own, Teacher Residency, and Teacher Registered Apprenticeship?

Blog Post
Feb. 6, 2024

Luisa is a paraeducator who supports the learning of students with disabilities. She has worked in her local school district for the past five years and finds her job to be challenging and fulfilling. Luisa aspires to become a certified teacher so that she can lead her own classroom and earn higher wages and better benefits. But she faces barriers to achieving her goal including high tuition costs, the need to work in order to help support her family, a lack of information about available pathways into teaching, and uncertainty about the requirements to earn a teaching degree.

Across the nation, there are individuals like Luisa who are interested in becoming a teacher but face an array of barriers in accessing and completing a teacher preparation program. The good news is that states, districts, and teacher prep programs are working to expand state-approved pathways into the career, such as teacher residency, Grow Your Own (GYO), and teacher Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs. In recent years, there has been growth in the adoption of these three approaches, with K-12 teacher RA programs gaining huge momentum over the last year. As these new models are being developed and implemented, there is a need for greater clarity on how they intersect and how they differ.

GYO programs are focused on recruiting and preparing community-based candidates to teach in their local schools. These programs have a long history, and states such as Illinois have funded the approach since the early 2000s. GYO programs are often structured as partnerships between school districts, teacher preparation programs, and/or community-based organizations that work together to provide comprehensive wraparound supports to the teacher candidates they serve. These supports can include paid job-embedded learning, academic advising, flexible scheduling for courses, mentorship, tutoring, test preparation, and a cohort model. In addition, programs often provide tailored one-on-one support to help address the unique needs or circumstances of each candidate. GYO is most often funded by local and state governments who may use federal funds to supplement their efforts. However, GYO does not have a specified federal appropriation or grant program.

A central underlying assumption of GYO is that recruiting and preparing teachers from the local community will increase retention and promote stronger connections between teachers and the students and families they serve. More of a conceptual framework than a specific model of teacher preparation, GYO is often used as a catch-all term for a variety of programmatic designs and goals, as noted in several recent research scans.

As more states move to adopt teacher RAs, some programs are building off of existing GYO programs (such as in Tennessee), and some are even being described as GYO teacher apprenticeships (such as in Virginia). For example, a teacher apprenticeship may utilize a GYO framework and focus on preparing paraeducators to become certified teachers, even though this isn’t a defining feature of apprenticeship programs.

The key feature of teacher apprenticeships is that apprentices must be paid for their work using a progressive wage scale, which is a departure from other teacher preparation models. The pay requirement is one of many programmatic elements that all RA programs must include per regulations set by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). For example, all programs are required to develop program standards and offer apprentices structured on-the-job learning under the guidance of a mentor (at least 2,000 hours), complementary related instruction (144 hours), a portable credential, and more. These requirements mean there is some standardization in how these programs are designed.

RAs also come with targeted federal and state funding streams, including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which can be used to offer support services to eligible apprentices. Many states have allocated resources to ensure that teacher apprentices graduate with little to no debt. In July of 2023, the Pathways Alliance released National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for K-12 teacher apprenticeship, which can be used as a model for program development and was approved by the U.S. DOL. Even with a baseline level of standardization, the emerging programs have unique features that are aligned to state or local context. For example, some states have designed apprenticeship programs that begin in high school, while others have elected to allow apprentices to serve as a teacher of record while still undergoing training.

Teacher residency and teacher apprenticeship overlap in significant ways. Both models provide intensive clinical training under the guidance of a mentor teacher, offer aligned coursework, and lead to a degree and/or state certification. Residencies are also similar to GYO, as partnerships between school districts and EPPs to address local teacher workforce needs are an essential component. Teacher residency programs have historically been offered at the graduate level, with undergraduate programs being a more recent development. For example, Louisiana will soon require that all in-state teacher candidates complete a 1-year residency, whether or not they are enrolled in a traditional or alternative certification program.

Residency programs vary in terms of whether and how residents are paid and the level of financial assistance offered to support tuition and other costs. National groups such as the Pathways Alliance, the National Center for Teacher Residencies, and Prepared To Teach have worked to create consensus around a national definition of teacher residency and to develop a crosswalk between teacher apprenticeship and teacher residency.

Research has found positive impacts of teacher residency on increasing educator diversity and retention in the teaching profession. States such as California, Mississippi, and New York have invested millions in the development of teacher residency programs as the strategy continues to grow in popularity. Competitive federal grant funding is available through the Teacher Quality Partnership to support the cost of launching and operating a teacher residency program, but does not cover the long-term costs of sustaining one. Prepared To Teach has developed a suite of resources, such as a Residency Funding Calculator, to help local education agencies and teacher preparation programs make paid residency models a more financially sustainable option.

The table below highlights key elements of GYO, teacher residency, and teacher apprenticeship programs and how these elements differ and intersect. Decisions about whether to adopt one strategy over another are likely influenced by the target candidates the program seeks to serve, support services that can be offered, available funding streams, and existing infrastructure in the state. In order to best serve future teachers—like Luisa—a central goal should be to ensure that each of these approaches is high quality, offers robust and rigorous clinical training, and will lead to improved recruitment and retention within the profession.