(VIDEO) The College of Education is spearheading an alliance of West Texas school districts and post-secondary institutions to provide a sustainable pipeline of teacher talent for underserved classrooms.
In an effort to provide a long-term, systemic solution to a shortage of high-quality educators in rural West Texas schools, Texas Tech University's College of Education is establishing the West Texas Rural Education Partnership – an alliance of West Texas universities, community colleges and school districts that will collaboratively recruit and prepare educators specifically for rural classrooms in the region.
The goal of the alliance is to develop and implement an inter-institutional strategy that will provide a pathway toward teaching in rural schools for community members, high school students and existing teacher candidates. The goal is to staff unfilled vacancies, dramatically reduce rates of attrition and prepare teachers who are truly committed to their rural, West Texas communities. The partnership is predicted to produce 200 new community-based teachers each year.
To kick off the initiative, Texas Tech will host a Partnership Summit June 24-25 at the Texas Tech Dairy Barn. Attending the summit will be representatives from the University of Texas Permian Basin, University of Texas at El Paso and West Texas A&M University, nine community colleges and eight school districts. An additional summit is scheduled for December.
"The shortage of qualified teachers across West Texas represents a need for school districts and post-secondary institutions to work together to provide for the future of rural communities," said Doug Hamman, chair of the Teacher Education Department at Texas Tech and director of the West Texas Rural Education Partnership. "School districts are suffering from chronic teacher shortages, high teacher attrition, declining student achievement and flight from rural areas that are no longer able to sustain the personal and professional ambitions of young and able community members. Collaboration is the solution. We envision this alliance as a means for universities, community colleges and school districts to come together to improve the educational quality and overall prosperity of rural Texas communities.”
The first year of the initiative is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Prentice Farrar Brown and Alline Ford Brown Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee.
The idea for the rural alliance is based on Texas Tech's TechTeach Across Rural Texas, a “grow your own” educator preparation program that features district-embedded training and close partnerships between the university, community colleges and rural school districts. The program aims to collaboratively identify members of rural communities interested in teaching and prepare them within the community's schools where they will work following graduation.
“Through our participation with TechTeach Across Rural Texas, we have been able to place well-trained, highly skilled teachers in our classrooms,” said Shawn Mason, former superintendent of Crosbyton Independent School District and a planning partner for West Texas Rural Education Partnership. “Many rural districts struggle to attract and retain quality teaching applicants and have to rely on alternative certification programs to complete their teaching staff. Our partnership with Texas Tech has eased this burden and allowed us to keep outstanding teachers in front of our students. We are looking forward to our continued partnership with Texas Tech through the rural alliance, and we hope that the success at Crosbyton can be replicated throughout our region.”
TechTeach Across Rural Texas has received strong support from the Texas Education Agency, which awarded Texas Tech nearly $1.4 million in grants over three years as part of the agency's Grow Your Own grant program. Texas Tech prepared 70 new teachers for nine rural districts in West Texas – more than any other university that participated in the grant program.