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Superintendents from across Michigan are launching a program to address teacher shortages

Mitchell Boatman

In an effort to address ongoing teacher shortages across the state, dozens of intermediate school districts in Michigan are coming together to work toward a solution. 

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A group of several dozen ISD (Intermediate School District) and RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency) superintendents announced the launch of “Talent Together” during a roundtable meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6. Talent Together is a consortium collectively serving 63 counties and over a million students. 

The group aims to leverage state, federal and local funding to remove barriers and create additional pathways toward teacher certification to bolster the education workforce. 

“The educator shortage crisis in Michigan is among the worst in the country, with a 66 percent drop in enrollment in educator preparation programs (from 2008 to 2016),” said Naomi Norman, superintendent of Washtenaw ISD.

“Talent Together is committed to building a statewide program that is focused on quality. This means eliminating financial barriers, addressing vacancies, particularly in early childhood and special education, and ensuring that teachers are well prepared.”

Participating districts range from Metro Detroit to West Michigan and from the Upper Peninsula to the Michigan-Indiana border. Included are the Ottawa Area, Wayne, St. Joseph County, Char-Em, Ionia County, Hillsdale County, Oakland and Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle ISDs — among others.

The program will utilize an apprenticeship model to develop new educators, providing more on-the-job training.

“Together, we are asking for the opportunity to be utilized differently and to a greater extent than ever before in the training and development of future educators,” said Kyle Mayer, superintendent of the Ottawa Area ISD.

“We are advocating together to coordinate a more job-embedded training model in which much of the training for future school teachers happens inside of live PK-12 classrooms, supporting real-time student needs side-by-side under the careful supervision of our most highly effective practicing classroom teachers.

“We believe there is an urgent need to design new and more efficient, high quality pathways into the education profession and that Michigan intermediate school districts are uniquely positioned within our system of public education to play an important role in meeting that need.”

Intermediate school districts and regional educational service agencies are education entities providing support and resources to local school districts in their county or region. They provide support in meeting state and federal standards, measuring student growth, coordinating special education services, providing career and technical education opportunities and more.

Those seeking certification through Talent Together will meet federal apprenticeship guidelines, which means at least one year of experience in the classroom fully paid at a competitive wage.

“The more we can make sure that starting a career in education is a financially viable career — from the moment training begins — the more likely we are to convince the workforce of the future to consider becoming a teacher,” Jack Elsey, founder of the Michigan Educator Workforce Initiative, which is supporting the Talent Together consortium, wrote in a statement.

Talent Together will be available to a wide range of prospective educators, including those coming out of high school and those working as non-teaching staff in school buildings. Special focus will be given to people working in schools with an interest in teaching, but who don’t have the means to pursue certification. 

Michigan recently approved $175 million for “grown your own” educator programs through the MI Proud Educator Grant. Talent Together plans to apply once the application opens, which is expected to happen this month. 

The organization is on track to welcome participants as soon as next fall and is hopeful of quick results. 

“Those of us at the Talent Together consortium believe this program will produce hundreds of additional teachers in the next five years,” said Scott Koziol, superintendent of the Char-Em ISD.

Talent Together is seeking proposals from colleges and universities across the state that would meet the partnership’s needs. 

Important principles include quality of preparation; affordability; addressing critical vacancies in secondary math, secondary science and elementary education; improved preparation, so teachers start full-time roles with experience; an apprenticeship model; diversity in educators; and serving rural, urban and suburban schools. 

The group hopes to expand its reach and become a certifying body itself to further accelerate the initiative.

— Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at . Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMitch.