Column: Fix the teacher pipeline
Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed SB727 to encourage more professionals into the classroom. The issue revolved around a requirement that career changers who wanted to move into teaching careers take the new SAT to demonstrate “basic skills.” In a gym. On a Saturday. Surrounded by students they would soon be teaching. Another needless barrier to the classroom.
These potential teachers already had clearly demonstrated basic skills by graduating with a degree from a regionally accredited university. They would already have to show the required expertise by passing the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification in their subject. Only then could these career changers begin their Michigan Alternate Route to Interim Teaching.
Why is this small change important? Because Michigan needs more teachers. According to federal Title II reporting, enrollment in Michigan Educator Preparation programs dropped from 14,372 to 11,099 in just two years — a 23 percent drop. Over the years there have been plenty of people who have been issued a Michigan teaching license, but they have chosen to move on to other careers. This is a fact of life today. Not enough students are selecting teaching as a profession in college, and people change careers a lot. People no longer stay in a profession and retire in 30 years. The Department of Labor says that on average we will have had at least 11 jobs before we are 40.
Career changers are a curse and a blessing to teaching. While people may leave, we have found those who want to start teaching. We have had more than 1,400 professionals apply to the Michigan Teachers of Tomorrow program. Our program students have an average age of 32, and 46 percent of them are non-white (compared to current enrollment in Michigan educator programs that are 83 percent white). This represents an incredible opportunity for Michigan schools. These are quality teachers. Our 5-year retention rate is 70 percent, and a recent study by the University of Texas found students taught by alternatively certified teachers performed as well as students taught be teachers from regular routes.
Michigan needs more great teachers in the classroom, who will stay, who will perform and who can inspire. Removing the SAT as an unnecessary barrier will go a long way to making that happen.
Dave Saba is chief development officer for Teachers of Tomorrow.