In these divided times, there are few societal imperatives that we can all agree on, that we can—as a collective—champion and stand behind. One of these imperatives serves a call to action: to ensure that every single child in this nation have access to a quality education. Alliant alumna Evelyn Serrano once said, “If you’re an activist, do this…be a teacher;” today—in honor of National Teacher’s Day—we echo that call, and we commit to helping anyone and everyone heed that call.
The simple fact is that this nation is suffering through one of the most severe teacher shortage crises in recent memory—a crisis which disproportionally affects the most disadvantaged populations. And if we stand idly by, the crisis will worsen and the disparity will deepen.
Half of all schools—and 90% of high-poverty schools—are struggling to find qualified special education teachers and, according to reports published by the Washington Post, “High-poverty schools often staffed by rotating cast of substitutes.” If we are to truly be a land of equity, we must start with one of our most vital public resources: education.
As with most national crises, we must first ask ourselves how we got here. While a complicated question to answer, we have turned to the Learning Policy Institute to help identify three of the main factors that have led us down this path.
During the great recession, districts were forced to cut classes and programs and increase their pupil-teacher ratios. Districts are now looking to reinstate these classes and programs which would “require hiring an additional 145,000 teachers, on top of standard hiring needs, to reduce average pupil-teacher ratios from the current 16-to-1 to pre-recession ratios of 15.3 to 1.”
Attrition is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in this situation. With a national rate of nearly 8%, attrition in the teaching field is responsible for the largest share of demand. “The teaching workforce continues to be a leaky bucket, losing hundreds of thousands of teachers each year—the majority of them before retirement age. Changing attrition would change the projected shortages more than any other single factor.”
“After relatively flat student enrollment growth for the past decade, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) predicts the school-going population will increase by roughly three million students in the next decade.”
We’ve examined the cause, now let’s discuss the solution. We can address two of the three reasons behind this crisis. Generational growth will always remain, but we can do our part to reinstate pupil-teacher ratios by ensuring that teacher preparation programs are accessible and successful in preparing qualified teachers to lead the classroom; and we can address attrition by providing professional development and support to ensure that teachers can stay in their classrooms and continue making an impact in their students’ lives. This is exactly what Alliant is doing in California, and it is what we will be doing in Arizona. We are heeding the call to action, and we are expanding our impact.
According to the Learning Policy Institute “In Arizona, 62% of school districts had unfilled teaching positions three months into the school year in 2013-14. In the same school year, close to 1,000 teachers were on substitute credentials—a 29% increase from the previous year. With one of the highest turnover rates of any state and 24% of the teacher workforce eligible to retire by the end of 2018, the outlook for Arizona’s future points to continued shortages.”
Arizona is tackling the shortage head on. Governor Doug Ducey has pledged a 20% raise for teachers by 2020 and there have been fervent calls for a renewed and fortified commitment to invest in public schools. Now, Alliant is joining in the effort.
In August, the first cohort of new Arizona teachers will begin their coursework in our Arizona Teacher Preparation Programs. We have been approved by the Arizona School Board of Education (ASBE) to offer an Alternative Certification Pathway leading to an Elementary or a Secondary Teacher Certification. Candidates in the program may also earn a concurrent Master of Arts in Education (MAE) in Teaching.
Our programs offer online coursework paired with guided hands-on training, they can be completed in as few as 12 months, candidates will earn an income while teaching and honing their skills, and Alliant will provide the professional development needed to address attrition through our In-Service Academy (ISA) which provides continuing education and support to every alumnus for two years post-graduation.
This fall, we will welcome a new generation of educators who will transform the lives of children across the state of Arizona. We will welcome those who wish to embark upon a journey to a meaningful and fulfilling career of impact. And, we will welcome a generation of advocates, heeding the call to ensure equity in education. At Alliant, our vision is an inclusive world empowered by Alliant alumni. This fall, we will welcome the future teachers who will bring this vision to life.
Education is, indeed, advocacy—and it comes with a call to action. As a nation—as a society— we are in crisis. Let’s face it together. Let’s solve it together. Let’s fulfill a promise that was made upon the founding of this nation and let’s give every single child the opportunity to prosper.