Today’s teachers are responsible for preparing the workforce of tomorrow. Research demonstrates that the quality of a teacher's preparation directly correlates with their classroom performance - a classroom filled with our children, our neighbors, and our future leaders. The stakes are even higher for students experiencing economic instability and students of color as they are more likely to be taught by novice teachers. A quality teacher has even been shown to play a key role in determining a student’s earning potential later in life. High-quality teacher preparation is a critical lever to cultivating a diverse, effective teaching workforce that can better support strong student outcomes.
Right now, stories about teacher vacancies are reverberating around the state. This problem is not new, and it won’t go away overnight. Just like there are no shortcuts for our students, there are no shortcuts for teachers. The sustainable approach to addressing issues of teacher supply is stronger retention, and high-quality teacher preparation is at the core of that work. Novice teachers typically leave the classroom in the highest numbers – according to TEA, in 2021 more than 3,500 teachers left before completing their first year in the classroom.
Research tells us that when teachers have high-quality teacher preparation, they are more likely to stay in the profession. In fact, a Houston-based study across five years showed that nearly 9 out of 10 graduates from the University of Houston’s yearlong residency program - a model of high-quality preparation - that go on to teach in Texas’ schools remain teaching in a Texas classroom into their third year, which is 11 percentage points higher than the state average (1). We can ensure our classrooms have the quantity of teachers we need without sacrificing their quality.
We have examples of high-quality teacher preparation programs across Texas that are affordable and accessible for diverse candidates. Look to Dallas College and its innovative teaching residency and apprenticeship programs. These tuition-free, work-based programs provide student teachers an accessible, supportive pathway to teaching centered on practical experience. Students can simultaneously earn a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education for under $10,000 (the first degree program of its kind at a Texas community college). Texas Tech University has shown that these residency programs work in rural Texas too. In Lubbock, the TechTeach program has been demonstrating the impact of its high-quality yearlong residency model for over a decade.
Dallas and Lubbock are not alone. TEA has directed grant funding to 88 districts that are partnering with 28 vetted teacher residency programs across the state to meet immediate instructional needs and long-term talent needs. All of these programs follow a model in which teacher candidates are paired with experienced, highly effective mentor teachers for a full year of clinical training or co-teaching in a classroom while receiving a stipend. These affordable pathways have already placed more than 800 candidates without sacrificing teacher quality one bit.
When we invest in our teachers, we make an investment in our children’s futures. Now, in the wake of the steep learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, this investment has never been more critical. To meet this moment, it is imperative that we ensure there is accessible, quality preparation before teachers enter the classroom and support – including mentoring and professional development – throughout their tenure. With both of these core needs met, our teachers will be better suited to meet the increasingly urgent needs of their students and stay in the classroom. The only way to move our students forward is by moving our teachers forward too.
Now, more than ever, it is vital that we build a teaching pathway supportive of both educator effectiveness and retention. Texans agree – over 70 percent of North Texas voters would choose high-quality teacher preparation programs that are more likely to keep teachers in the classroom over easier certification pathways. As leaders from the Commit Partnership, Educate Texas, Teach Plus, The Education Trust, and Philanthropy Advocates, we urge our state leaders to consider investing in rigorous, affordable, high-quality education preparation pathways this legislative session as the solution to our staffing challenges. Our students depend on it.
(1) US PREP National Center & Educational Policy Initiative at Carolina. Houston Community of Practice Data, June 2022. Visualizations produced with Texas Education Agency 2018-2020 Employment, Certification, and TAPR data