Grant program to fill need for fully-credentialed teachers

Grant program to fill need for fully-credentialed teachers

(Texas) Through the state’s new Grow Your Own program, 25 rural Texas districts have received grant money to promote teaching careers among high school students and help paraprofessionals already working in schools earn their credential.

“The goal of Grow Your Own is to help increase the quality and diversity of our teaching force, especially in small and rural school districts,” education commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement. “Grants will be used to encourage high school students to consider teaching as a career, as well as paraprofessionals to pursue certification.”

Schools can also use the grant to provide support to student teachers during their year-long apprenticeship role.

According to the National Education Association, a paraeducator can be instructional and non-instructional assistants, a teacher aide, library aide, technician and assistant, preschool care giver, crossing guard, or building, bus and playground monitor.

Throughout the country, states have long had similar programs that aim to fill the need for fully credentialed teachers by tapping into the paraprofessional workforce where employees have already shown interest in working with school-aged children.

In California, for instance, the Paraprofessional Teacher Training Program produced more than 2,200 educators between 1995 and 2008, according to the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The program provides assistance with university tuition, fees and books, as well as other support services that help paraprofessionals earn a bachelor’s degree if needed, as well as their teaching credential.

In Texas, the creation of the Grow Your Own initiative was prompted by recommendations made in a report from the Texas Rural Schools Task Force, which was created in 2016 to examine current challenges and best practices for the state’s rural school districts.

According to the task force report, teacher recruitment and retention was a top concern in the state’s 663 rural or non-metropolitan districts.

Based on information shared in the applications of grant recipients, the Texas Education Agency expects that the 2018-19 Grow Your Own grant program grants will fund:

  • 49 current teachers to receive a Master’s degrees in Education in order to teach the Education and Training courses for dual-credit courses starting in the 2020-21 school-year;
  • 136 paraprofessionals to receive a bachelor’s and teacher certification to be full-time teachers beginning with the 2020-21 school-year;
  • 59 paraprofessionals already with four-year degrees to receive a teacher certification to begin teaching full-time by the 2019-20 school-year;
  • 24 teacher candidates to participate in a year-long clinical teaching placement and become full-time teachers starting in the 2019-20 school-year; and
  • 59 high schools to start or grow education and training programs. 

Officials at one of the receiving districts, Amarillo Independent School District, said the new grant money will go toward the district’s Path2Teaching program, which provides those who have or are close to completing a bachelor’s degree with options to become certified teachers. Money will also support the Cultivating Our Rising Educators program, known as CORE, through with students who graduate from the district receive a job offer with a local Amarillo school pending their completion of the CORE program, a degree from West Texas A&M University, and a Texas Teacher Certificate in the content area they received a job offer in.

The education department said that an opportunity to apply for the 2019-2020 Grow Your Own grant program will come later this year.

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