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Grow-Your-Own Teacher Program Not Growing Very Many

In November, I wrote about a seminar at the left-leaning Center for American Progress where researchers and educators advocated for expanding local grow-your-own teachers programs to increase the numbers of minority teachers. Grow-your-own programs take local community members and help them become teachers, so that the demographics of the teaching corps better reflect that of the student body. A program-manager for an Oakland program in its third year touted early retention rates. But while the panelists agreed that increasing diversity among teachers is beneficial to students, they also conceded that more research was needed on the effectiveness of these programs.

According to the Associated Press, a similar grow-your-own program in Illinois that started six years ago is struggling to prove it's been worthwhile. The Grow Your Own Teachers program has received $19 million in state aid and produced only 70 teachers. Nearly half of the program's recruits have dropped out of their teacher-education courses. Pointing to those statistics, critics of the initiative charge that it is an "egregious" waste of money. But proponents contend that the program is a long-term investment and needs time to develop—though even some of them acknowledge that the selection process needs to be tightened.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a grow-your-own program in your area? Should states continue to invest in these sorts of programs or cut their losses? Are there better—and cheaper—solutions for increasing diversity among teachers?

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