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Empowering local talent

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Evaluating the impact of Grow-your-own teacher programs

Grow-your-own teacher programs have emerged as a solution to address teacher shortages and the lack of racial/ethnic diversity among teachers. While teachers play a crucial role in student success, and having diverse teachers has been linked to better academic outcomes for students, there has been a decline in interest in the teaching profession over recent decades.

Grow-your-own programs are typically implemented by recruiting prospective teachers locally to ensure they reflect and have strong ties to the communities they serve. In the US, most states have at least one Grow-your-own program. However, as far as we know, there is no causal evidence to show whether these programs work as intended. Consequently, our IZA Discussion Paper explores the following questions: Can Grow-your-own programs address local teacher shortages? Can they help diversify the teacher workforce?

We examine the effects of the Teacher Academy of Maryland, a Grow-your-own program in Maryland. The Teacher Academy of Maryland offers public high school students the opportunity to enroll in a four-course sequence to explore the teaching profession, earn a recognized industry credential, and accumulate credits counting toward both high school graduation and college. By leveraging the staggered rollout of the program over time, we find that the Teacher Academy of Maryland increases the likelihood of exposed students becoming teachers in a Maryland public school by 47%. Not surprisingly, the effects are most significant among females, who comprise over 75% of the nationwide workforce, with larger effects observed for Black females (80% increase) compared to White females (39%). We also find positive effects on the wages of Black females (18%), with no decline for any demographic group, which aligns with other research demonstrating that work in the education sector can facilitate upward economic mobility. These wage effects also challenge a prevailing notion that teaching is not financially viable as a career choice.

These findings are promising and hold significant implications for policy. First, the wage effects are positive across groups but are more pronounced at the lower end of the earnings spectrum. This suggests that Grow-your-own programs do not induce "would be" high earners to shift into teaching.

Second, while the Teacher Academy of Maryland reduces the teaching gap between Black and White females by about 25%, it does not eliminate it entirely. States and districts must carefully monitor who has access to the program if and when it expands. Moreover, while White females benefited from the program in expected ways, such as earning an undergraduate degree in teacher education, Black females who became teachers through the Teacher Academy of Maryland primarily did so via alternative credentialing processes that bypass traditional undergraduate teacher education. This suggests that the Teacher Academy of Maryland made the teacher certification process more accessible for White females through course credits and provided early exposure and information to Black females, findings that can inform program expansion efforts.

Finally, not all Grow-your-own programs are the same and vary significantly in their design and effectiveness. Therefore, we are cautious not to generalize that all Grow-your-own programs are successful. As the number of Grow-your-own providers grows, we urge states and districts to design programs with features similar to Teacher Academy of Maryland (such as course-based, dual-credit options) and focus on those programs that demonstrate effectiveness.

© David Blazar, Wenjing Gao, Seth Gershenson, Ramon Goings, and Francisco Lagos

David Blazar is Associate Professor of Education Policy at University of Maryland College Park
Wenjing Gao is PhD student at University of Maryland College Park
Seth Gershenson is Professor of Public Policy at American University and IZA Research Fellow
Ramon Goings is Associated Professor at University of Maryland Baltimore County
Francisco Lagos is Senior Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank

Please note:
We recognize that IZA World of Labor articles may prompt discussion and possibly controversy. Opinion pieces, such as the one above, capture ideas and debates concisely, and anchor them with real-world examples. Opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of the IZA.

Related IZA World of Labor content:
Understanding teacher effectiveness to raise pupil attainment by Simon Burgess
Is teacher certification an effective tool for developing countries? by Todd Pugatch
How effective are financial incentives for teachers? by Scott A. Imberman
How manipulating test scores affects school accountability and student achievement by Erich Battistin

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