Utah teachers are taking a different path to the head of the classroom, according to new data from a Salt Lake City-based think tank. And that may pose a problem as schools in the state struggle to recruit — and hold onto — educators.
Envision Utah, which focuses on public policy and population growth, combed through teacher data from the Utah Board of Education and found that the traditional path toward a career in teaching is becoming a thing of the past, at least in Utah.
“In 2017 we only had about a third of our new teachers come from our teacher training programs,” said Envision Utah’s Jason Brown, who authored the new findings.
The “traditional” route into teaching follows a well-traveled path. A student decides to teach and enrolls in a program at the undergraduate or graduate level. Upon completion, new graduates will have a teacher’s license and be ready for the classroom.
Instead, more new teachers are finding an alternate way into education jobs. Half of the state’s new teachers didn’t graduate from a teacher program, the study found.
These new teachers receive on-the-job training, which typically means that despite little experience they get thrust to the front of the class. Mentors guide them through their lesson plans, and in the beginning, teachers also take night and summer classes until they qualify for a teaching license. The process may take years.
Utah schools desperately need them as teacher turnover in the state is already high. Nearly half of the state’s teachers will leave the classroom in their first five years on the job.
Unless universities see a dramatic rise in teacher education enrollment, the high rate of teacher turnover isn’t likely to improve. While the alternate route is a viable path to the classroom, the study found it comes with another challenge — teacher retention.
“Teachers that come from a university teacher training program leave at much lower rates than any other teacher,” Brown said.
In fact, teachers that don’t come from a traditional training program are twice as likely to leave the profession each year, according to the study. By 2030, teachers who take the alternate path to the class will likely account for more than half of all teachers in Utah.