Tennessee’s Pioneering Teacher Apprenticeship Program

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We have a difficult time recruiting enough quality teachers in the U.S. After all, even if every single graduate of every selective college opted to become a teacher next year, it wouldn’t even replace natural attrition in a nation with 3.5 million educators. While this has long made concerns of a staffing shortage a recurring theme in K-12 schooling, much of the blame should perhaps be reserved for onerous licensure systems that create roadblocks to professional entry without ensuring professional competence. And now, the pandemic-induced “Great Resignation” has exacerbated things, with droves of teachers reporting that they plan to retire earlier than expected due to pandemic-related concerns.

The situation calls for some creative problem-solving, which makes it worth taking heed of Tennessee’s announcement last week that it has just established a permanent program allowing teachers to gain a license through an apprenticeship rather than a costly education degree. This new “Grow Your Own” model provides a sorely needed alternative to existing K-12 licensure systems, under which training the average teacher costs about $25,000 and requires 1,500 hours.