A ‘grow-your-own’ urban teacher recruitment program at work
Fourth in the series Raising Teachers
Great urban teachers, those who are enthusiastic about staying in urban classrooms for the duration of their careers, may very well be graduates of an urban school. Let’s examine an urban district that is putting this theory to the test by intentionally recruiting current it’s own high school students to become the district’s future teachers. (Full disclosure, I am the director of the national Future Educators Association, which I highlight in this post).
For more than 20 years, educators in Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville, Kentucky) have been grooming the urban district’s future teachers from within the ranks of the students themselves – and it appears to be working. District personnel have established a Future Educators Association® (FEA) chapter in every middle and high school, and they have partnered with the University of Louisville and several other area colleges and universities to create a seamless transition into higher education.
Offered at several of the district’s high schools, students enrolled in an Education Magnet Career Academy can earn college credit hours for courses taken in the program. Students are immersed in the educational community participating in job shadowing opportunities, tours of Kentucky colleges and universities, education related service-learning projects, an internship, and even a paid co-op teaching experience. Students attend the FEA Kentucky state conference and many travel to the national FEA conference to participate in competitive events with future educators from across the country.
So how are they doing? Are these high school students staying on the education career path and are they really becoming a part of the district’s teacher workforce? And do they stay?
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reports that the national teacher turnover rate in urban schools is over 20 percent, and in some schools and districts, the teacher dropout rate is actually higher than the student dropout rate. Soundly breaking the national norm, more than 70 percent of the teachers within Jefferson County Public Schools who identified themselves as former members of a district-sponsored FEA chapter have been teachers within the district for more than seven years; 60 percent have taught there for more than 10 years (Storm, 2008).
A former FEA student and current middle school teacher had this to say, “Visiting other schools helped prepare me for college. One of the schools we visited happened to be the university I graduated from. FEA was a stepping stone to my career in education.”
Current students involved in the future educators program were asked about their career aspirations. Of the students surveyed, nearly 100 percent live in and attend school within the urban setting, 81 percent are of a racial or ethnic minority, and 95 percent confirmed that their family would be proud of them if they became a teacher. The background factors researchers found promising in recruiting urban teachers are clearly strong within this district.
Seventy-one percent of the students involved in the program who have indicated their intent to earn a teaching degree say they hope to begin their teaching career within the district. But even if they don’t become future teachers for the district, the program is elevating the profession and raising respect for those who have made it their career. Angel Crawford, a seventeen-year-old student in the program, said, “FEA helps you be prepared for life and for college. Even if you don’t end up having a career in education, you learn leadership skills and what it takes to be an educator. I really respect teachers, even more than I did before I got involved in this program.”
Previous post in this series: What about picking future teachers for urban classrooms?
Next up: Now that we’ve picked them, what do we do to encourage them to continue on the teaching career pathway?