Back in the fall, the Kentucky Department of Education officially announced the launch of Go Teach KY, an initiative aiming to recruit new teachers to the Bluegrass. In tandem, KDE also announced plans for a new loan forgiveness program called the Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching (KAET) in hopes of diversifying Kentucky’s teaching force.
“Ensuring that Kentucky students have access to a diverse, high-quality, effective teacher workforce is a high priority for me and KDE,” education commissioner Wayne Lewis said in his announcement. “There is no single school factor more important to the success of students than having an effective classroom teacher. KAET will be instrumental in recruiting more talented young people and experienced professionals into the teaching profession who mirror the incredible diversity of our state. It also will provide additional support to those pre-service teachers as they prepare to serve students.”
That’s the plan, anyway.
Kentucky has faced legitimate teacher shortages throughout the past few years, and studies consistently show how all students reap the benefits of having culturally diverse educators. But does Go Teach KY provide the right infrastructure to make those goals a reality?
✔ Building A Teacher Recruitment Pipeline
If in ten years we find ourselves reflecting on how Go Teach KY filled our schools with awesome educators and made teaching popular again, we’ll inevitably arrive at this point: it built a pipeline to the profession. From high school to college to post-graduation, Go Teach KY has established a more streamlined path into teaching than Kentucky has had before.
For high school students who may be interested in a career in education, the Go Teach KY campaign is committing to expanding teaching and learning pathways. That means more high schoolers will have access to introductory education courses, and many will even get the chance to observe and collaborate with their own teachers to gain a new perspective on the profession. For those in college, the KAET program provides high-quality mentoring and professional engagement for young teachers in addition to offering lone forgiveness. Finally, the Go Teach KY campaign has also begun a major social media push to highlight the many alternative pathways to teacher certification, making it easier than ever for mid-career professionals to find out more about how they can make the jump into teaching. For the first time, that means Kentucky actually has a legitimate pipeline for teacher recruitment, and that’s something to get excited about. Except…
X It’s Not Exactly Clear
Go Teach KY has a lot of good things going for it, but the pipeline that it has built remains a bit… disjointed. There are several key factors that make up Go Teach KY, including programs like Educators Rising and KAET, and it’s still not quite clear what the relationship among all of them are.
For example, do each of these individual programs fall under this umbrella concept of Go Teach KY? Or are they each separate entities that have formed their own partnerships with KDE’s new initiative? I think Go Teach KY has a solid brand to be sold, but the infrastructure behind it all is still a bit foggy.
✔ Loan Forgiveness for Pre-Service Teachers
As part of the Go Teach KY campaign, KAET offers a renewable service award to pre-service teachers who pledge to teach in Kentucky upon graduating. According to Kentucky Teacher:
Undergraduate students enrolled in educator preparation programs can receive up to $5,000 per semester for up to four semesters over the course of three academic years and receive no more than $20,000 total. They must be enrolled in an educator preparation program or have an application on file with a public Kentucky university.
Master’s candidates are also eligible to receive up to $2,500 per semester for up to four semesters, and the great thing is that this program is available at nearly all of Kentucky’s major colleges and universities.
Loan forgiveness is a great incentive to toss into the mix because, as I’ve pointed out before, Kentucky’s teacher shortages aren’t going anywhere unless we put our money where our mouths are. Go Teach KY is actually trying to do that, so it gets a thumbs-up from me. But…
X It Needs Some Social Media Love
Maybe it sounds like nitpicking, but in today’s interconnected world, social media is the common denominator across all major movements. Currently, Go Teach KY has fewer than a thousand followers on both Facebook and Twitter. You can certainly tell that Go Teach KY is working hard to amplify their social media presence, but there’s still a way to go before it’s the Teach for America of the Bluegrass.
Currently, the campaign’s biggest social media push has been focused on identifying young and dynamic #FacesFromTheField to promote the brand. If you’ve seen posts like this on your social feeds lately, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
It’s not the worst strategy for building name recognition around the state, but it doesn’t tell the average person a whole lot about what Go Teach KY actually is. And that matters, especially if you’re a young, prospective educator.
Instead, Go Teach KY should think bigger on their social media rollout. For example, on the Go Teach KY website, it’s mentioned that teachers interested in an ambassadorship role can reach out to Erin Ashcraft at KDE. Why is that not being pushed harder? I know plenty of teachers who would be willing to create social media posts, write blog pieces, and help recruit new teachers into the profession, but there’s not much being said about those opportunities. For an initiative that’s still in its infancy, promoting these ambassador roles certainly seems like a great foundation to build upon.
X Does It Really Focus on Diversity?
Go Teach KY’s mission is an important one — to recruit new teachers to the Bluegrass — though it’s just as important to remember that our students need diverse teachers. Go Teach KY hints toward that by including KAET program under its umbrella, but it doesn’t yet seem like diversifying the teaching force is a major goal of the initiative.
I say that because other teacher recruitment initiatives often place such a heavy emphasis on the need for teachers of color, especially in urban areas, so it’s a bit surprising that Go Teach KY isn’t doing the same thing. Organizations like Teach for America, for example, are often some of the largest pipelines of diverse teachers into urban schools. Kentucky may be a mostly rural state, but we know that all students benefit from having teachers from diverse backgrounds in the classroom. And for our urban areas like Louisville and Lexington, a diversity-minded Go Teach KY could lead to a host of benefits for students.
Well, that’s it for now. What are your thoughts?
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