As teacher apprenticeship programs gain popularity across the United States, REL Central is supporting evidence gathering and program implementation of Wyoming's newly created Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative. Wyoming , like many other states, faces challenges in finding, hiring, developing, and retaining teachers, particularly in rural districts or those with high living costs. To address these challenges, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) and the Professional Teaching Standards Board (PTSB), which licenses teachers in the state of Wyoming, collaborated to develop the Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative. This initiative became a Recognized Apprenticeship Program by the U.S. Department of Labor in October 2022. The initiative addresses position shortages by supporting paraprofessionals, already employed in school districts, who would like to become fully certified teachers.
The program supports these candidates with on-the-job training, mentoring, and free college tuition. Paraprofessionals continue working full time within their school districts, while also making progress towards their degree and teaching certification (including passing the Praxis II certification exam for teacher candidates in Elementary Education and Secondary Social Studies).
The WDE and PTSB anticipate that this program will help alleviate teacher shortages by leveraging existing staff within schools, who already live and work within their communities, to fill teacher vacancies.
The program is currently in its pilot phase, with three participating districts: Fremont County School District 24, Laramie County School District 1, and Teton County School District 1. These districts have committed to implementing the teacher apprenticeship program during the inaugural year, starting in fall 2023 and concluding in spring of 2024. The pilot's objectives include ensuring that teacher candidates receive the necessary support to succeed, such as robust mentorship and ample time and support to complete college credits leading to a bachelor's degree.
Throughout this pilot year, REL Central is collaborating with the WDE, PTSB, pilot school districts, community colleges, and the University of Wyoming to support formative evaluation of the program. The support from REL Central includes guiding the development of a logic model for the initiative that highlights short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes (e.g., increases in apprentices' instructional skills and a reduction in staffing shortages) and using that logic model to craft measurable evaluation questions, co-identify the data needed to address those questions, and determine who will collect the initiative data and when. REL Central and partners will then collaboratively review and interpret the results. These evaluation efforts will give school and district leaders the opportunity to provide feedback on how the program is addressing the challenges of the workforce shortage.
Based on the pilot results, the REL Central team, along with the WDE, PTSB, and other partners, will determine how the program can be improved and enhanced. Insights gained from this pilot will also inform efforts to recruit additional districts and apprentice candidates throughout the state. The evaluation results will also help inform the state legislature, post-secondary institutions, local education agencies, and surrounding states of the challenges during early implementation of teacher apprenticeship programs. REL Central and our partners hope that this program, in establishing a new pathway for teachers in Wyoming, advances an innovative approach to addressing teacher shortages.
Wyoming Department of Education
Wyoming Department of Education