Plan to recruit a diversity of future teachers into your RWT teacher academy program. Career exploration inspires young people to think about their futures and imagine the jobs they may have. Early outreach to students ensures they are aware of career options, understand the career pathways available, and know what it takes to be eligible for admissions into teacher preparation programs. For professions like teaching, where people of color are vastly underrepresented, these early outreach programs are especially important. The specifics of recruiting students vary depending on the student themselves and the financial resources of the district. The RWT program encourages the recruitment of students of color with the goal of diversifying the teacher workforce, as well as providing support and resources in an anti-racist environment to pursue their dreams of higher education and beyond.
Assess current practices and resources
Examine current practices and resources that either promote or discourage a diverse group of high school students to enroll in your teacher academy program.
What are your goals?
- Does your school have any goals for recruitment of a diverse cohort of students into your teacher academy program?
- Does your school have any goals for recruitment of students interested in Washington State teaching shortage areas such as Early Childhood Education, Math, Science, Special Education and working with English Language Learners (ELL) or bilingual children and youth?
Who is participating in teacher academy courses or related activities?
- What are the current demographics of your school district and the local community?
- What are the current demographics of your school districts teaching workforce?
- What are the current demographics of your state and region?
- What are the current demographics of your existing teacher academy courses or related programs for future teachers (clubs or related activities)?
What practices or school policies are either supporting or acting as barriers to having your teacher academy course reflect the local, state and/or national diversity?
- Are any changes needed?
- Which student groups are over or underrepresented?
How are students currently recruited?
- Do strategies especially focus on recruiting a diverse cohort of students underrepresented in the current teaching workforce (ethnicity, gender, language, etc.)?
- Who is teaching your teacher academy course?
- Who on the school staff or in the local community is sought out by a diverse group of students for advice, mentoring and leadership? How can those persons become part of recruitment efforts?
Why are current students participating or not participating in a teacher academy program?
- Have you conducted a focus group of diverse students to learn why they have or have not participated in a teacher academy program?
- Have you asked teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and other adults involved with a diversity of students, who they think might be great candidates for exploring a career in teaching?
- Have you asked your CTE or other school advisory group to suggest recruitment strategies?
What systems issues may be contributing to a lack of students of color participating in a teacher academy program?
- Have you learned of scheduling issues, conflicting graduation requirements, or personal responsibilities that may be preventing some students from enrolling?
- Who has the insight and the power to address these challenges at a school systems level (for example, scheduling field experiences at times that don’t conflict with required courses, giving academic credit to a CTE course, etc.)?
Who is interested and able to support changes needed?
- Do teachers and school leaders participate in planning for change?
- Are a diversity of community members involved in a support or advisory capacity?
How will you measure the changes needed over time?
- What evidence will you use to determine how effectively, and to what degree, you are working towards the identified program goals?
Proven recruitment strategies
When introducing students to the program, the most effective method of recruitment is personal contact. This can be done through special, individualized invitations to students and families or direct contact by the instructor or program alumni.
Peer to peer recruitment
Current RWT program participants often make excellent recruiters; many students first learn about the program from a friend or classmate.
- How will you make use of current program participants in your recruitment efforts?
- Where are the places and who are the people connected to diverse groups of students in your school?
- How are families encouraged to consider teaching as a future profession for their high school student?
Reach out to staff in your school
It is important to promote the program to staff at your school, such as counselors, other teachers, and administrators. They can generate interest among other students and help look for strong candidates. Staff buy-in and word-of-mouth can increase student interest in participating and curiosity about the teaching profession.
- Send a personal email to staff asking them to recommend students with teaching potential. Remind them that the profession needs more diverse and alternative thinking teachers who connect well with others and have a passion to make a difference.
- Leverage staff meetings as space to inform and promote program efforts.
- Invite local newspapers to observe classes and field experiences and publish stories about the program.
- Have students submit short videos and articles to local publications and district websites.
- Get to know your local community-based and professional organizations and share information on the program.
- Contact local tribal nations, community centers, and social justice organizations to raise awareness.
Share how the program positively engages equity, diversity, and inclusion
- Does your school participate in future teacher conferences, such as the Teaching Equity Conference, typically hosted at Highline Community College?
- How do service learning or volunteer opportunities relate to tutoring or future teacher experiences?
- Do you advertise through district publications such as your school/district newsletter?
- Are you using leadership groups such as the school board to advertise, inform and promote program efforts?
Share how students are supported to succeed in high school, earn scholarships and acceptance to college
- How does your high school make it popular to earn scholarships and receive recognition for leadership and community service?
- How do the adults in your school identify great future teachers and encourage them to apply for relevant college scholarships?
Current RWT programs share successful recruitment strategies
Renton School District
Renton School District demonstrates the power of all staff (principals, counselors, and teachers) understanding and being able to communicate the value and specific characterstics of the RWT program to interested students. Participating Renton Teacher Academy students reflect the demographics of this diverse high school. Their program is integrated completely into the School District Calendar, CTE program, and Careers in Education processes. Perhaps because of this integration, RWT students are supported to understand this is not an “add-on” program but one that will support their overall chances of meeting high school credit and graduation requirements.
Teacher, coach, other staff, or community recommendations
The RWT instructor/site coordinator corresponded with Renton High School building teachers, counselors, the Renton Teacher Academy Board President, and Phi Delta Kappa Presidents to identify students of all populations and groups that have demonstrated outstanding leadership and communication skills as well as a high interest in mathematics and sciences.
Current RWT student recommendations
The cohort of current student participants are challenged annually to do their own recruiting, with the incentive of helping students realize the value of a close-knit, like-minded cohort.
Professionals share their career path at an informational luncheon
Students who show interest in the program are identified as future teacher candidates and are invited to an informational luncheon. At the luncheon, students met and listened to guest speakers including pre-service teachers, master teachers, and the school’s principal. Each spoke about their career path and experiences in education. Students were told the expectations of the program. Identified students and their parents were sent detailed information about the RWT program.
Students apply for participation and feel it is a honor to be accepted
Students are treated like professionals applying for a job. Selections are made on candidate interest, grade-level, unique circumstances, and teacher recommendations. Not all applicants are accepted and every applicant is required to have a teacher recommendation. Families were invited to an informational dinner in the spring. Renton School District and Central Washington University were available to answer questions from parents and students.
Problem-solve scheduling issues
Program scheduling can be a challenge due to conflicts with other college preparatory courses. Renton program leaders expanded recruitment activities and adapted to student scheduling conflicts. The instructor/site coordinator partnered closely with school counselors to evaluate students’ record to determine if the yearlong course was a viable option, eliminating upfront any possible scheduling issues. Counselors scheduled students into the Renton Teacher Academy course in May in order to eliminate scheduling conflicts.
School-wide daily announcements and informational flyers
School announcements and flyers have proven to be the least effective recruitment strategy. Students state they don’t listen carefully enough to the announcements or read flyers to make an impact on their class scheduling and career pathway selections. The district web site is another source of information not often cited as the reason for enrollment.
Burlington-Edison School District
Peer to peer word of mouth
Learning about RWT through peer to peer word of mouth has been the best recruitment strategy. Students learn from their peer’s experiences that there are significant opportunities and advantages to becoming a member of the class. Every spring students from the class graduate with scholarship money to further their education. The past three years, graduating seniors have earned increasing awards; in 2013-14 students earned over $400,000 in scholarship monies. Younger students see and hear about the results and it is a powerful connection.
Opportunities to become involved and participate in community events, local, and regional conferences where they not only attend, but present ideas about changing communities through education and cultural awareness are also said to be very engaging by students.
Rigorous college preparation
Students are aware that if they become part of the class, they will be required to prepare themselves to graduate and attend college. This takes the form of an embedded pre-college unit that occurs throughout the year including college visits, guest speakers, scholarship and college essay workshops, community information events, FAFSA workshops, and continued support from staff at the high school who support all of the students.
The RWT course is viewed as an honors course within the school. Students apply to participate in the course. To be accepted, they must be bilingual or interested in supporting bilingual/bicultural children and youth, have a strong desire to work in schools, and they must maintain a GPA of 2.5 during their tenure in the class. Most of the teacher academy students participate for the entire school year and some participate for multiple years.
Mount Vernon School District
The Mount Vernon High School principal, CTE director, high school counselor, School-Family Migrant Liaison, and the RWT teacher worked together to develop a recruitment plan. They talked to students in the current RWT program and members of their Latino/a Educational Achievement Project (LEAP) club to gather feedback on changes they could make to attract more Latino/a students to the program. Based on that feedback, they now offer both a beginning and advanced section of the course, as well as a section specifically targeting students interested in learning more about their culture. They promoted these changes to prospective students around the school in venues such as the AVID classroom. Their counselor and School-Family Migrant Liaison made personal contact with students to provide information. During the school’s pre-registration process, they were able to double the number of students interested in taking the course, and more than 50% of those students are Latino/a.
Tacoma Public Schools
Immerse in a college experience to create a program “brand”
The Tacoma Teach 253 summer academy is held on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) in early August. Over 25 high school students, instructors from Mt. Tahoma and Lincoln High Schools, PLU faculty members, and support staff come to campus for two days, and engage in a “college-like” experience with seminars, campus tours, and interactions with teacher preparation students. As both high school instructors have noted, there is very quickly a “brand” that students at the high school discuss later, which allows the Teach 253 staff to recruit more effectively.
Trusting relationships at the center
A critical piece to recruiting students into the program was making use of other instructors and school counselors. For example, at Lincoln High School, the RWT teacher worked closely with the head football coach to recruit athletes into the program – which was not typically a strong source of students in previous teacher academy courses. The level of personal relationship between the students and their instructors is described by the program as very important and impacts their willingness and ability to track student progress, follow-up on specific issues, and be personal advocates.
Plans are in progress for more systemic systems of intersecting with the various mentoring programs that are present at the high schools (e.g., the College Success Foundation). A deeper working relationship with all partners, is thought to strengthen how students are tracked and mentored throughout their high school experience. By the end of the 2013-14 academic year, the students were reported by program staff to have developed “a sense of solidarity and identification with the program.” The teachers at both high schools noted that as the year progressed, more and more students and teachers were asking questions about the program and how they could be involved.
The Tacoma Public Schools Steering Committee writes:
Our knowledge of the obstacles and strategies that will be effective in recruiting underrepresented students is just developing. For example, one of the enlightening moments for the Steering Committee happened as a result of one of the table conversations at the PLU event. The teacher at Mt. Tahoma mentioned that when she talks to underrepresented students at her school, they are often surprised by the rewards of teaching (e.g., salary, vacation days, etc.). When we stopped to think about it, their surprise is understandable. Many of the students we are targeting are coming from difficult situations where professional stability and monetary rewards are extremely limited. Consequently, when recruiting, the teacher has honest conversations with students about what teaching has meant for her life and to try and dispel the negativity around the profession. This has helped the Steering Committee realize that the barriers to attracting students to this program contain many similarities that the entire profession has in developing its workforce. As we continue to push deeper into these issues, it is our hope that we will be able to focus our efforts on attending to those specific issues that emerge. (Tacoma RWT Progress Report, June 2013).