New academy diversifies the teacher workforce

The pipeline to a more robust and diverse teacher workforce just became stronger since the AFT—in partnership with Montclair State University and Newark Public Schools—launched a new Teacher Education Academy. The high school program will educate and prepare students to return to their own communities to teach, enriching and diversifying their local educator workforce.

New Jersey Teacher Prep Academy

By training this new generation, the academy will not only address a growing teacher shortfall but will also start to correct a racial imbalance between students and teachers: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, black and brown students comprise 45 percent of the nation’s K-12 students, yet 83 percent of the teaching workforce is white. The academy, the first in the Newark school district, is the sort of “grow-your-own” teacher training program that will help rectify that imbalance.

“As a 22-year educator in the Newark Public Schools system, I know how critical it is to teach, mentor and inspire effectively in the classroom,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, whose staff joined members of the Newark Board of Education, school superintendent Roger León, Montclair State University President Susan Cole, Newark Teachers Union president John Abeigon and AFT President Randi Weingarten at the launch on Feb. 26. “Teachers do more than merely correct tests and read students’ essays. By their every word in the classroom, they create future generations of scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers and leaders who will create the strong Newark we want to see.”

The academy will be housed in Newark’s East Side High School and is expected to open in 2020. Montclair State University, where faculty and staff belong to AFT New Jersey, will develop the curriculum, and Montclair faculty will teach academy students. Graduates will receive a substitute certificate and college credits upon completion of the program.

The AFT has made diversifying the teacher workforce a priority in recent years, and our affiliates already support other grow-your-own programs. For example, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers supports a teaching magnet high school, and the United Federation of Teachers developed an apprenticeship program to train teachers for career and technical education schools in New York City. These programs, which recruit new teachers from communities that are often ignored, are a response to research that shows all students benefit from a more diverse teaching force. Children in historically underserved communities benefit academically if they have teachers who look like them: Teachers of color demonstrate higher academic expectations for students of color, which can result in increased academic and social growth. They can create a comfort zone of familiarity with heritage and culture, serve as role models, and help reduce stereotypes and biases among all students.

They can also fill a gap in teacher availability: Based on predictions from the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2025, the Unites States is projected to have a teacher shortfall of over 100,000, while student enrollment is projected to grow by 3 million in the next decade.

“Today, we take an important step in Newark with the broader education community in New Jersey to grow the educator workforce and diversify the pipeline of people entering the profession through a new grow-our-own program,” Weingarten said at the launch event. “This partnership is what real collaboration looks like: all parties on board reflecting the leadership and diversity of the community, and all committed to moving a powerful vision and a plan that puts schools at the heart of their communities.”

[Virginia Myers and AFT Media Relations]