Arizona program aims to get more teachers in the classroom

Data from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association shows nearly 30 percent of teacher positions are vacant a few weeks into the school year.
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 6:18 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - More teachers will soon be in the classroom in Arizona. At least, that’s the hope with a new $5 million grant from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

The money will be used to design, launch and expand and Arizona Teacher Residency.

Data from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association shows nearly 30 percent of teacher positions are vacant a few weeks into the school year. TUSD can only even fill 55 to 65% of classes with substitute teachers.

“Beyond that, 50% of teacher positions are filled by individuals not meeting standard teacher requirements,” said Marcy Wood, the Department Head of Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona.

There have been teacher retention issues, especially in Arizona, for a very long time, she said, and the data suggests that pay is a real issue.

“In Arizona, we are suffering from a crushing teaching shortage, and one of the major drivers…is our attrition rate. So, 19% of teachers in Arizona leave our classrooms every year, and that is the highest attrition in the nation. The national average is 8%,” said Victoria Theisen-Homer, the director of Arizona Teacher Residency.

Kathy Hoffman, Arizona state superintendent, announced the program Monday, Oct. 25. The two-year program will provide aspiring teachers with in-classroom experience, living stipends, a master’s degree and a job at a partnering school district. It’s similar to a medical residency and was designed around the idea of one.

It starts with a two-week summer institute, followed by a year of in-school apprenticeship under a supervising teacher before they become the teacher-of-record in the program’s second year.

“This program’s not meant to be in competition with our existing programs, but rather one that will attract a new cohort of individuals into the profession like college graduates who did not major in education and those looking to switch careers or reenter the workforce,” said Hoffman.

Residents will also get a salary from the district during the year as the teacher-of-record in addition to their living stipends. While going through the program, graduate coursework will be completed and residence will get a master’s degree from NAU.

The Arizona Teacher Residency will partner with Title 1 elementary school districts around Phoenix to fill those classrooms first. The plan is to expand into high schools and other parts of the state in the coming years.

“They will be able to get a graduate degree, learn how to teach, get extensive support both before the residency and after for very, very little financially,” said Theisen-Homer.

The Arizona Teacher Residency will have its first students starting the program in the summer of 2022. Applications will be available this winter. Go here for more information and to sign up for the program when application are available.

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