Alternative Routes to Certification
Diversity in the educator workforce in matters! Washington has a unique opportunity to make an increased investment in the diversity of its educator workforce and serve as a national leader in creating and promoting Alternative Routes to becoming an educator. By investing an additional $11 million in Alternative Routes to teacher certification, as outlined in Gov. Inslee’s proposed 17-19 operating budget, the legislature has the opportunity to affirm its intent to create a diverse and highly qualified educator workforce while also ensuring adequate resources and supports for both Alternative Route candidates and the programs that serve them.
Johns Hopkins University recently concluded that low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college. Providing opportunity for students to recognize themselves and their community in the educators that serve them bolsters a student’s connection to both the educator and the education community around them.
However, state and national reports indicate that our educator workforce is not diversifying at the same rate as the students they serve. In the 95-96 school year, there were approximately 49,000 teachers in Washington, 94% of whom were White. In 2015-16, 90% of the state’s 60,000 teachers were White. By contrast, the student population in Washington in the 96-97 school year that were non-white was just over 23% compared to just under 45% in the 15-16 school year.
Over a 20 year period, the increase in Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander educators has been minimal while the proportion of Black/African American teachers has declined from 1.6% in 95-96 school year to 1.2% in 15-16 school year. The proportion of Native American teachers has also declined from 0.8% to 0.7%.
Alternative Routes, a Path Forward
The slow growth in educator diversity leaves our fast growing number of students of color with fewer and fewer opportunities to see themselves and their community in the education system that serves them. The results of this are compounding. As more and more students struggle to make a personal connection to their educators, the more they struggle in finding meaningful opportunities for growth and achievement.
Alternative Routes to educator certification create multiple entry points to becoming an educator, meeting potential future educators where they are and giving them a clear path to working as an educator. Alternative Routes attract a higher percentage of candidates of color than traditional routes. Within Alternative Route Programs, candidates of color complete programs at a higher rate than their counterparts in more traditional educator preparation programs.
Long Standing Program Success
There are over 25 Alternative Route programs in Washington State, pointing to tremendous and rapid growth since first established. Several programs serve as exemplary models of meeting local need and breaking down barriers that address teacher shortage and diversity.
Heritage University’s Alternative Route to teaching program, which addresses high need rural areas and districts in Central Washington, is a leading example of the impact of these programs. The program has partnered with area school districts such as Sunnyside, Yakima, Selah, Pasco, Mabton, and several others. The program also offers endorsements in high needs areas such as Bilingual Education, ELL, Special Education, and middle level Mathematics and Humanities.
Innovative New Program
The Woodring Highline Future Bilingual Teacher Fellow Program in northwest Washington is focused on growing bilingual paraeducators in the Highline school district into bilingual teaching positions. This Alternative Route partnership between Western Washington University and Highline Public Schools began in the summer of 2016, and has garnered national attention for its contribution to growing Washington State’s future bilingual educators. The program supports the “learn to teach while teaching model” and offers endorsements in Elementary Education, ELL, Bilingual, and Reading. The New America Dual Language Learners National Workgroup has spotlighted the program and it’s trailblazing efforts for models to grow bilingual educators.
Alternative Routes are a critical component of the Boards efforts to address the teacher shortage, particularly as it relates to increasing diversity and dual language instruction in school across our state. These programs are successful because of the intent focus on local partnerships, intentional program design, and ensuring a viable pathway for all individuals looking to become an educator in Washington.