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Tackling Stakeholder-Generated Research Questions and Spurring Data-Driven Decisions to Increase the Diversity of Washington's Teaching Force

By Jason Greenberg Motamedi | December 3, 2018

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
Jason Greenberg Motamedi is a senior advisor at Education Northwest. In addition to leading REL Northwest's work with the Washington State Vibrant Teaching Force Alliance, he manages a variety of research and evaluation projects—designing evaluation strategies and instruments and collecting data through focus groups, interviews, and classroom observations.

In Washington state, REL Northwest is working with representatives from the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) and various school districts to understand the state's teacher shortage.

For the past two years, through the Washington State Vibrant Teaching Force Alliance, we have been partnering with stakeholders to identify and develop strategies to recruit, train, and retain a diverse and skilled teaching force that reflects the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of Washington's students and is responsive to their learning needs.

As part of this work, the alliance members asked us to scan the research and help them address the following questions:

  • What are strategies for designing, implementing, and evaluating grow-your-own (GYO) teacher programs?
  • What are potential testing barriers for teacher candidates of color?
  • What are common practices for recruiting, training, and retaining bilingual and diverse teachers?

Finding Prevalence

There is very little rigorous research that evaluates the impact of GYO teacher programs or specific practices for recruiting, training, and retaining bilingual and diverse teachers. However, we found descriptions of programs and practices, as well as a few individual case studies.

We compiled these prevalent programs and practices into four sets of meeting materials, which were shared at trainings in October 2017 with members of the Road Map GYO Teacher Pilot, January 2018 with PESB, April 2018 with the Oregon Bilingual Teacher Pathway Partnership, and May 2018 with PESB's Testing Barriers Work Group.

The first set of meeting materials focused on GYO teacher programs for adults who may already be educators but are not licensed teachers (such as paraeducators and emergency substitutes). The second set of meeting materials focused on GYO teacher programs for secondary school students, such as high school teacher academies.

These materials are intended to facilitate discussion of existing and potentially new program features among staff members who manage or work with GYO teacher programs or are considering creating one.

The third set of meeting materials addressed questions related to potential testing barriers for teacher candidates of color and research on the percentage of candidates of color who pass teacher certification assessments compared with the percentage of White candidates.

The final set of meeting materials explored common strategies school districts and teacher preparation programs employ to recruit, train, and retain bilingual and diverse teachers, including partnership and recruitment, teacher preparation, induction and mentoring, professional learning, and supportive leadership practices.

The set of meeting materials on testing barriers for teacher candidates of color was intended for PESB and the Washington State Legislature, and the others were intended for human resources professionals in school districts that are concerned about their teacher shortage.

This concern is not unique to Washington state. In fact, stakeholders in Alaska and Montana have already expressed interest in learning more about the research on these topics, which was a major driver for making the meeting materials available online. Stakeholders can use the materials as a jumping-off point for conversations about programs and practices related to teacher recruitment and retention and to evaluate the barriers teacher certification testing may pose in their states or among their students.

Underscoring the Importance of Data and Research

For our stakeholders, one outcome of this work has been an increased awareness of the importance of data for program evaluation—and the need to gather data early in the process. This is particularly important due to the lack of rigorous research on topics related to the teacher shortage.

In one instance, after reviewing the meeting materials, a stakeholder was prompted to meet with colleagues in her information technology department, which led to "tons of data" that she didn't realize existed.

Our hope is that the materials spur more of these kinds of conversations, ultimately leading to more data-driven decisions and program evaluations in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

Additionally, the materials may inspire others to contribute to the teacher shortage research base, which would have wide-reaching and long-lasting benefits nationwide.