Coalition: Here’s how Colorado can grow and diversify its teacher workforce

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Nicholas Garcia on May 24, 2016

Colorado lawmakers, teacher preparation programs and school districts should move quickly to address the state’s teacher shortage, a coalition of 60 education advocacy groups said Tuesday.

The coalition said policies are needed to incentivize the training, hiring and retaining of more teachers of color to better reflect the increasingly diverse student population.

An estimated 5,500 Colorado teachers will retire this year while only about 2,000 state college and university graduates will have earned a teaching license, the coalition said. Further, the number of students enrolling at teacher colleges continued to drop this year for a fifth straight year.

At the same time, the nation’s public schools are educating more black and Latino students, while more than 70 percent teachers across the country are white.

“We hear loud and clear about the need to recruit highly qualified teachers into the profession,” said Katy Anthes, Colorado’s interim education commissioner, at an afternoon press conference organized by the national TeachStrong coalition.

The coalition’s aim is to make “modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy priority in 2016.”

As a country, “we haven’t made a concerted and systematic effort to improve learning by modernizing the profession,” said Lisette Partelow, director of teacher policy at the Center for American Progress, which organized the TeachStrong coalition.

The group’s national members include odd bedfellows: the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s two largest teachers unions, and Teach For America, which recruits graduates from the nation’s most elite colleges to teach in some of the nation’s poorest schools after only six weeks of training during the summer.

The coalition also includes the Denver-based Public Education and Business Coalition, which runs the Boettcher Teacher Residency program.

Among the coalition’s recommendations:

  • States should provide resources to school districts to recruit diverse teaching candidates.
  • States should encourage school districts to recruit diverse, high-achieving high school students to become teachers.
  • Districts should prioritize hiring teachers for schools that serve at-risk students.
  • States and school districts should work with historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to ensure diversity in the teaching profession.

Anthes said the Colorado education department has taken some steps to address the teacher shortage and the lack of diversity in the state’s teacher workforce. In 2014, the state granted $1.47 million to both PEBC and TFA-Colorado to recruit more teachers of color.

The federal government also recently approved the state’s plan to improve teacher quality, especially in schools that serve mostly poor students and those learning English as a second language.

But Margarita Bianco, a University of Colorado Denver associate professor, said the state hasn’t done enough. She pointed out that state lawmakers have ignored recommendations from a 2014 report that identified how the state could diversify its teacher workforce.

“The pathway to the classroom is broken,” said Lariza Cantu, a paraprofessional at Doull Elementary School in Denver.

Cantu said she wants to become a licensed teacher, but she can’t keep her full-time job and attend classes at the University of Colorado Denver, where she was recently accepted.

When asked if the coalition will have a presence when Colorado lawmakers return to work in January, Partelow said, “We hope to be back before then.”

The TeachStrong coalition is taking similar policy proposals to statehouses across the United States, including in North Carolina, Nevada and Virginia.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

Photo credit: Nicholas Garcia


  1. Part 1 of 3

    Let me be succinct. A 2.4% pay crease in eight years doesn’t make the profession an attractive one. Look again: 2.4% over eight years hardly scratches cost-of-living increases.

    Want to make the profession an attractive one, eliminate Tabor, move the hospital provider fee into an enterprise, redirect marijuana money to schools, and stop starving public Ed. We know lawmakers are trying to starve public teachers’ meager pensions.

    It’s ALL about money. As insecure Boasberg suggested a while back, teaching is no longer a profession. So, if teaching has been relegated to a technical status, what do you expect? Why invest tens of thousands of dollars in a college education, to secure an insecure position? Allow more collective-bargaining and get more diverse teachers and close that ever elusive minority achievement gap. TFA and charter teachers in Denver want collective-bargaining. Period. Perhaps a collective watchdog voice would prevent fraud such as has been reported with DSS Tea. What kind of respectable young person would want to commit themselves to such uncertain Tea? If teaching is now a mere technical position with few narrow-range skills required, then go through TFA, and get hired in Denver. They don’t need a liberally trained educator, just a kid who has good eye-hand coordination and can operate a joy stick. Heck, if i’m investing tens of thousands of dollars in my education to go into the fray, despite all the warnings not to, I’m going to a school district where employees are protected by a collective voice.

  2. Part 2 of 3

    One of the same residual effects of the Era of Despicability (which resulted in a successful recall campaign) in Jeffco, is the demoralization of teaching (not teachers). That is, the strategic devaluing of any aspect that has moral value to kids who hear the calling to teach, and for American society who don’t mind that it’s no longer important. It is data-driven. Quantity over quality. It’s no longer morally attractive, simple. And Thank God those people are out of office! Maybe these three organizations can reverse the notion that public schools are the dumping ground for the nation’s woes. Yep, we know that the over under around arching agenda is to destroy the teachers Association. But most people don’t know that the middle-class decline is parallel to the union decline. So let’s demoralize teaching and fuel the excuse for ending collective bargaining between employees and employers. And let’s take the middle class with it.

    Teachers are embattled, to quote a recent writer. Who. The heck. Wants to. Go to battle for an ungrateful kid? For an ungrateful parent? For an ungrateful system? For an ungrateful society? You cannot convince young people to be the super person that this society expects its teachers to be, and not compensate them and support them and morally uphold them at the same time. You cannot do that! Hold kids accountable–real accountability where he can actually be failed in fifth grade, and you’ll have thankfulness come back into their daily operations. And who wants to go to work for a public institution without representation, when your livelihood is rollerball-vulnerable to the whims of law-makers (Who are in bed with corporate heads a.k.a. ALEC)? Speaking of bedfellows… Disband ALEC now! Bring back the authority of the public institution known as school, and share accountability.

  3. Part 3 of 3

    On another front, militaristically speaking, the well-balanced and transparent Denver Post gripes once again, on how more Colorado high school kids have to have remediation. The general public doesn’t realize that schools are not allowed to fail children, retain children, because it costs the school too much. Schools only get one allotment per kid, retain them and that’s out of your budget. Fix that problem hey? The practice of social promotion needs to go, spend money early rather than late, spend money in early literacy and throughout elementary school, instead of remediation in college. I know, the shifting of financial responsibility from the tax payer in K-12, to the private household in post secondary, makes sense. So stop griping about it and do something. Pay me now or pay me later. Tax payer pay me now or private household pay me later. What young kid wants to be stuck in the middle of this?

    This effects the kid’s perception of teaching. The path is no longer paved with gold, it is paved with roofing nails, and briars, and with quicksand, and with jousting tournaments. Warnings and sneers and eye rolls and memes (those who can’t…). There are jesters who would pick his pockets and plagues that would besmirch him. There is the ivory tower surrounded by the deep moat, and over the wall is flung the periodical vat of boiling tar.

    If the General public could see that the rights of the teacher and the strength of the teaching position equates directly to the rights of the student, the family and their financial opportunity, no matter what skin color, teaching would rise in popularity.

    But boiling tar?

    Who wants to do that?

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