District leaders report that one of the biggest challenges they face is a shortage of teachers, and in particular, a shortage of special education teachers. New data shows that this shortage is widespread and increasing. There is also a need for greater diversity within the profession.
Clear evidence confirms that having teachers reflect the demographics of their communities–when students of color have teachers that look like them–helps improve student learning. Growing your own (GYO) special education teacher pipeline provides a promising answer to the challenges of recruiting and retaining a diverse teacher workforce.
A GYO pipeline strategy is a program designed to address teacher shortages in schools by recruiting and training individuals from within the local community to become teachers. The program typically targets high school students, paraprofessionals, and other community members who may be interested in a career in teaching.
The program is called “Grow Your Own” because it emphasizes building up local talent and resources, rather than relying on external recruitment. The pipeline aspect of the program refers to the idea that participants are brought into the program early on and are provided with ongoing support and training as they progress towards becoming fully certified teachers. The program typically includes a combination of coursework, mentorship, and hands-on teaching experience. Participants may be provided with scholarships or stipends to help cover the cost of tuition and other expenses.
GYO: Different Shapes and Sizes
GYO programs are being rolled out across the country with two primary goals: growing and diversifying the teacher workforce. GYO programs come in many shapes and sizes, but they all focus on recruiting teachers from the community for the community. Using partnerships between school districts, colleges, and community organizations, education leaders are finding ways to encourage community members to enter the field.
The majority of GYO programs are rolled out at the district level, but more states are stepping in to provide funding and support. There is also emerging research about which GYO strategies seem to be the most effective.
New America conducted a 50-state scan to understand how communities are developing GYO programs. Many GYO programs are started at the local level with little state involvement, though that is shifting now in terms of funding and support. At least seven states fund statewide GYO programs and provide assistance to local school districts for GYO programs. State assistance is important, but many participants also feel that the strength of GYO programs is in their ability to understand and focus on local needs.
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