Education Equity Insights Part 4: Texas GYO on Improving the Educator Pipeline

Darcy Pietryka

Teacher shortages, coupled with a goal of diversifying the educator pipeline and elevating the teaching profession, have centered states’ attention on finding robust solutions. One strategy to support this goal is Grow Your Own (GYO) programs that are designed to recruit and retain a diverse pool of teachers in the local community. A partnership between the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Region 14 Comprehensive Center (R14CC), directed by Westat, began in 2019 to support TEA’s GYO pathways. The TEA gives grants to school districts to create and implement GYO pathways. It is part of Westat’s role in the R14CC to work with the state education agency to support the state’s priorities related to where they want support. GYO is 1 of those areas.

“TEA’s GYO grant program supports 2 pathways for elevating the profession and increasing the pool and diversity of future educators,” says Darcy Pietryka, Ed.M., a Senior Study Director in Westat’s Education Studies area. “Pathway 1 focuses on recruiting future educators by offering education and training (E&T) courses to current high school students, particularly students of color and students in rural areas. It is a great opportunity to spur their interest in teaching. Pathway 2 encourages and supports currently employed paraprofessionals, instructional aides, and substitute teachers to transition to certified, full-time teaching roles.”

Working in partnership with the TEA, the R14CC team is creating a framework and implementation guide to support the creation, implementation, and sustainability of GYO programs statewide. In addition, the team is creating trainings for GYO grantees based on their identified needs that will support grantee and larger TEA-wide goals. Ms. Pietryka continues, “The work supports strong community partnerships; family involvement; engaged and effective educators and administrators; high-quality instructional materials; and, of course, diverse, passionate youth, and paraprofessionals.”

“TEA’s GYO has enjoyed early success,” says Ms. Pietryka. “The percentage of both high school students invested in Pathway 1 and the percentage of candidates in Pathway 2 has grown with each cohort.”

“The work that we do cannot get done without the support of the Comprehensive Center,” noted Ronald Coleman, Jr., M.Ed., an Educator Recruitment and Development Specialist with TEA. ”The team that Westat assembled here for our work has a good mix of strategically oriented minds, process-oriented minds, and content experts. Overall, the capacity-building and technical assistance support have been extremely productive.”

Collaboration and providing support where needed are key elements for this initiative. “It has been a pleasure to work in partnership with the TEA,” says Ms. Pietryka. “Open communication and mutual respect have been instrumental in implementing these strategic plans and early successes, and will lead to better student outcomes.”

Open communication and mutual respect have been instrumental in implementing these strategic plans and early successes, and will lead to better student outcomes

- Darcy Pietryka, Ed.M., a Senior Study Director, Education Studies

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