Shaping the Future of the Profession
The responsibility for the advancement of any true profession must rest primarily with the members of the profession. The programs below illustrate some ways in which the AFT works to advocate and support the needs of our members while strengthening the profession for educators and the people they serve.
Schools cannot function at full capacity without enough educators. Fewer educators lead to overcrowded classrooms, less focused instruction for the students who need it most, and burnout for those who remain in the profession.
In response to the dramatic and widespread teacher and school staff shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, the AFT has convened a national taskforce, comprised of more than 20 AFT state and local leaders. The task force will release its findings and proposed solutions at the AFT’s convention in July 2022.
Building a Diverse Workforce
Research indicates that students, educators and the public school system all benefit from students having the opportunity to learn from a wide array of perspectives. And recruiting and retaining teachers of color is an important step toward reducing disparities in education outcomes for students of color.
Read about the research, resources, and how the union can help:
In response to the growing shortage of teachers and lack of diversity, the AFT has taken a comprehensive, forward-thinking approach that focuses on engaging young people and introducing them to the profession, in partnership with local unions and school districts. These Grow Your Own programs (GYO) create paraprofessional to teacher pathways and/or teacher academies for students in high school.
Pittsburgh Teaching Magnet
The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers has a long-standing commitment to diversifying the teaching workforce. It has been working for decades to attract and prepare young men and women for careers in education. A teaching magnet program in Pittsburgh Public Schools, supported by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT), engages high school students interested in education. Students in the program take courses that prepare them for field experience during their senior year, and many students continue their teacher education through college and return to teach in the Pittsburgh school district. In fact, the Pittsburgh school board and PFT, developed a memorandum of understanding whereby students who have completed a degree, and meet the requirements for employment, will be offered employment with PPS. Many of the graduates from the teaching magnet program are current members of PFT.
Red Hawks Rising
The dual-enrollment program in Newark, N.J., called The Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy, is a “grow your own” model developed in partnership with the Newark Board of Education, Montclair State University, Newark Teachers Union and the AFT. This program invites high school students to explore teaching as a profession, to learn about educational justice issues in their community, and to enroll in college courses while still in high school. The explicit goal of the program is to recruit these students into a teacher education program and support them to return to the community and educate the next generation. Those students who proceed to MSU and complete their teaching certificate will be given preferential hiring by the board of education.
Professional Pathways in Austin
A meaningful career pathway is a research-backed way to aid recruitment and retention efforts, and the Professional Pathways for Teachers (PPfT) program in Austin, Texas does just that. The AFT was a key design partner with the local union and the school district, helping solve their retention issue. The program redesigned the evaluation process and created three distinct career pathways, formalized with a micro-credential, enabling teachers to take on leadership roles while remaining in the classroom. Using this by-teachers, for-teachers program, the Austin Independent School District was able to turn its attrition problem around.
For information on starting a "Grow Your Own" program in your local, read:
Issued by the AFT Teacher Preparation Task Force, this report urges a move toward a systemic approach to preparing teachers and a more rigorous threshold to ensure that every teacher is ready to teach. It reflects the AFT's continuing efforts to improve the teaching profession, teaching and learning.
I have had the pleasure of coordinating and teaching the Brashear Teaching Magnet courses for the last 15 years. This program is so vital to sustaining our profession and community. I’m so proud of the continued collaboration between my union, school board, educators, higher ed partners and students, to make this program a success. As the Pittsburgh federation vice president of secondary schools, I have been honored to see many of the students return and become PFT members, when they begin teaching in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Hannah K. McCarthy, coordinator, Brashear Teaching Magnet
Teachers are the experts; therefore, they must be in control of their profession and create the professional standards by which they are defined. PPfT does that at its core.... Teachers have control of their profession and their trajectory within it. As issues of institutional inequity and racism have become part of a national conversation, PPfT has been able to evolve to reflect on itself and meet those challenges. Sustainability was a priority for our planning with Austin Independent School District and AFT. We are building the profession and the strength of our teaching ranks through long term commitment.
Ken Zarifis, president