Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Professionalizing the First Steps of the Teaching Journey: Educators Rising Standards Represent a New Vision for the Field by Mapping the Front End of a Coherent Continuum for the Teaching Profession

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Professionalizing the First Steps of the Teaching Journey: Educators Rising Standards Represent a New Vision for the Field by Mapping the Front End of a Coherent Continuum for the Teaching Profession

Article excerpt

Who will be the next generation of educators we are all counting on to be highly skilled change agents? How can we cultivate them to be durable, empowered professionals who stay?

Starting early and thinking local is the core of a promising new movement to help communities grow their own teachers.

The needs are certainly immense.

PDK's contribution to building the next generation of educators has been to create Educators Rising, a national network launched in 2015 to support existing grow-your-own efforts aimed at attracting and supporting high school students interested in becoming teachers. Since professional standards defined by practitioners are a hallmark of professions, Educators Rising led the development of standards to define what teenage, aspiring educators need to know and be able to do to take their first steps on the path to accomplished teaching. Educators Rising believes that an essential part of closing the gap between the supply and demand of the teaching profession is by engaging bright young people in test-driving teaching before they reach college.

It's easy to feel disillusioned about the teaching pipeline. The Condition of Future Educators 2015 report released by ACT in July 2016 declared "interest among ACT-tested [high school] graduates in becoming educators continues to decline at an alarming rate." As educator preparation programs across the country continue to face drops in enrollment and teenagers recoil on surveys when asked to gauge their interest in teaching, we seem to be moving further away from building a skilled, diverse, empowered teaching workforce.

We urgently need to increase diversity in a teaching profession that is 82% white but serves a student population in which students of color comprise the majority. Bright young people, with no mechanism to explore the extraordinary rewards of teaching, are steering away from the profession. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs, especially in high-needs areas like STEM and special education, is down across the board. Band-Aid solutions abound.

America hires 300,000 new teachers every year. Most are homegrown: Over 60% of teachers work within 20 miles of where they attended high school. A majority of each community's future teachers--who will have extraordinary influence on that community --are sitting right there on the student side of the desk today! Starting intentionally and early --in secondary school--to build a broad, diverse, skilled, committed teaching talent pool is an important and logical yet historically overlooked endeavor.

Local teacher academies

Where opportunities are provided, high school students are interested in exploring teaching. In the first year of Educators Rising, 15,000 students and teacher leaders (with students of color comprising 49% of student membership) in over 1,000 schools across the country signed up for the free resources, opportunities, and networking.

That Educators Rising attracted 15,000 students in its first year is encouraging, but other national, career-technical student organizations show what is possible for the front end of the teaching pipeline in terms of size and engagement. National FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) has over 650,000 members exploring agricultural science. More than 200,000 students studying marketing have joined DECA. To meet labor market needs, the teaching profession needs to be nurturing talent on a significantly larger scale--and the size of other student organizations demonstrate that it's possible.

In these local teacher academy programs, students take elective courses or career-technical education programs of study in which they explore teaching. A skilled teacher leader facilitates the coursework, which often aligns with introductory education courses at a local college or university. The central plank of a teacher academy program is an array of clinical opportunities to try teaching. …

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