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The Midwest Alliance to Improve Teacher Preparation: Identifying practices and policies to increase access to high-quality teachers

MAITP in Review

By Sara Mitrano
December 14, 2021

All students need access to effective teachers. Education leaders in Michigan recognize that some districts face challenges with recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers. To help strengthen the state’s teacher workforce, the Michigan Department of Education partnered with Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest to develop the Midwest Alliance to Improve Teacher Preparation (MAITP).

From 2017 to 2021, MAITP worked with education leaders in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana to conduct research and use data to better align the supply of new teachers with districts’ needs and to increase supports for new teachers. The partnership’s members included education practitioners, policymakers, and researchers representing eight organizations, including state education agencies, school districts, and postsecondary institutions.

Read on to learn how MAITP’s work informed policies and practices at both the state and district levels to improve the preparation, recruitment, and retention of high-quality teachers in the Midwest.

Understanding teacher supply and demand to inform teacher preparation and recruitment practices at the state and district levels

When MAITP launched in 2017, education leaders in Michigan and other alliance members were aware of teacher shortages in the state and wanted to develop a systematic process for assessing shortages and making labor projections. This need became MAITP’s first priority, which the partnership addressed through an applied research study examining teacher shortages and surpluses in Michigan. The study projected teacher shortages in business education and career and technical education as well as in the Northwest and Upper Peninsula regions of the state.

To communicate the study findings, REL Midwest created a companion infographic to illustrate teacher supply and demand in Michigan [313 KB PDF icon ] as well as to identify services that REL Midwest could provide to Michigan districts to improve their staffing needs. In addition, Yinmei Wan, PhD, REL Midwest senior researcher and study co-author, discussed the study findings related to teacher shortages in rural districts in a related REL Midwest documentary, Heartbeat of the Community: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Rural Schools.

Product snapshot: Heartbeat of the Community: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Rural Schools

In 2019, MAITP worked with Detroit Public Television to produce a 30-minute documentary about the research on teacher preparation and recruitment across the country—with a focus on rural Michigan—and the actions that state and local education leaders are taking to recruit and retain teachers. The program also included the perspectives and experiences of practitioners in rural school districts who are affected by these shortages. REL Midwest hosted a screening at Central Michigan University, which included a panel discussion with individuals featured in the documentary.

Aligning state teacher preparation data with district-level staffing needs

After identifying areas projected to experience teacher shortages in Michigan, state education leaders and other MAITP members were interested in how to align the state’s teacher preparation programs with districts’ labor needs. In response, REL Midwest conducted a series of coaching sessions during 2018 and 2019 on strategies to report teacher postgraduation certification, employment, and retention statistics for each of Michigan’s educator preparation providers. Through this process, REL Midwest helped the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Educator Excellence develop a system to synthesize and report state- and program-level educator preparation outcomes.

Kelli Cassaday, strategic implementation consultant with the Office of Educator Excellence at the Michigan Department of Education, participated in the sessions. Reflecting on the process, she noted that “the data were very useful to identify where we are and identify EPPs [educator preparation providers] who are incorporating successful recruitment and retention programs. By digging into state-level and EPP-level outcomes, we have a better picture of the nuances of our educator workforce.” The Michigan Department of Education also included state-level outcomes identified through the MAITP project in the department’s Educator Workforce Annual Report [3,928 KB PDF icon ].

Leaders at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the Indiana Department of Education also were interested in understanding their state’s teacher workforce data to address issues within the teacher pipeline. In collaboration with MAITP, REL Midwest conducted a study that analyzed the characteristics and outcomes of students who pursued a bachelor’s degree in education in Indiana public colleges or universities. The study identified strategies that state leaders could use to attract talented individuals to the teaching field and help teacher candidates succeed. REL Midwest also created a companion infographic to help the agencies communicate the study findings and implications [85 KB PDF icon ] to relevant stakeholders.

Working to improve state and district teacher recruitment and retention practices

High teacher turnover rates have a negative impact on student achievement, particularly for students in schools with large populations of low-performing students and students of color (Banerjee et al., 2017; Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017; Johnson et al., 2012; Ronfeldt et al., 2013). Recognizing the importance of finding and retaining high-quality educators, MAITP members also focused on identifying effective ways for state and district administrators to improve their teacher recruitment and retention practices.

To increase the number of teachers available in Michigan public schools, MAITP members wanted to explore the viability of recruiting nonteaching certified teachers. In 2021, REL Midwest published a study that examined why some certified teachers no longer teach in Michigan public schools. The study found that about 61,000 teachers who were certified in Michigan were not teaching in the state’s public schools in 2017/18. These teachers were more likely to be younger or to identify as part of one or more of the following racial or ethnic groups: American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, Black, Hawaiian Native, Hispanic, Multiracial, and other Pacific Islander. The findings illuminate several opportunities for state and district leaders in Michigan, as well as in other states, to re-engage certified teachers who have left the field. For example, the study identified increased salary and simplification of certification requirements as desired incentives for teachers to consider returning to the classroom.

REL Midwest created a companion infographic [136 KB PDF icon ] and documentary to communicate the study findings. In addition, the Michigan Department of Education drew on the findings and launched the "Welcome Back Proud Michigan Educator Campaign," an initiative that seeks to recruit individuals with expired teacher certificates into the teacher workforce by reducing—and in some cases, eliminating—professional learning requirements for recertification.

REL Midwest also worked with the Michigan Department of Education and other MAITP members to develop a tool to help districts use their workforce data to self-diagnose issues, identify root causes, and focus on evidence-based solutions. In 2020, REL Midwest launched a partnership with Lansing Public Schools and engaged district staff in a structured process of data analysis, root-cause analysis, goal setting, and action planning focused on their local context of teacher supply and demand. As a result of this training and coaching project, the district now plans to implement an evidenced-based action plan to improve their teacher recruitment and retention practices.

“Over the course of this contract, we’ve worked closely with our district and state partners to increase their capacity to understand the trends and challenges associated with teacher recruitment and retention,” said Dan Frederking, REL Midwest partnership facilitator for MAITP. “Through this collaboration, we've been able to develop evidence-based strategies and tools that we hope will contribute to a positive change in the number and quality of teachers in Michigan and across the Midwest over the next several years.”


Banerjee, N., Stearns, E., Moller, S., & Mickelson, R. A. (2017). Teacher job satisfaction and student achievement: The roles of teacher professional community and teacher collaboration in schools. American Journal of Education, 123(2), 203–241.

Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher turnover: Why it matters and what we should do about it. Learning Policy Institute.

Johnson, S. M., Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2012). How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 114(10), 1–39. [561 KB PDF icon ]

Ronfeldt, M., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). How teacher turnover harms student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 4–36.

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Author information

Sara Mitrano Staff Picture

Sara Mitrano

Research Associate | REL Midwest


Beating the odds (2)

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College and Career Readiness (42)

Data Use (32)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (31)

Educator Effectiveness (36)

English Learners (10)

Literacy (11)

Math (1)

Online Courses (7)

Research Tools (2)

Rural (14)

Teacher Preparation (24)

Teacher Recruitment (2)

Teacher Retention (2)

Teacher Workforce (14)

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