A cutting edge program to usher Teaching Assistants and others into k-12 teaching careers is seeing great success just two years in, and just in time as districts across the county experience teacher shortages.
The Equity Institute’s TA to BA program has only been in operation for two years has seen such success that it has already “has scaled up more than six times beyond its original capacity and is launching cohorts in a second city, with talks underway to expand to a third, leaders say.” The program was launched out of Rhode Island, but is quickly expanding.
The “TA to BA” program seeks to recruit diverse and “untapped” talent into teaching careers by expediting teaching degrees for people in existing, relevant work programs, offering “a pathway to a college degree and teaching credential in less than three years.” Talent pools include paraprofessionals, classroom aides, and Teaching Assistants (TAs) — the program’s namesake.
The program is in collaboration with College Unbound, an accredited postsecondary institution for returning adult learners.
TA to BA fellows take two College Unbound courses per semester, scheduled in a flexible manner to adjust for their work day, plus a lab component to prepare them to lead a classroom. The program is structured in a way that many participants are able to graduate with their teaching credentials at an expedited pace.
Education news and policy site The 74 recently reported on the success of the program:
The Rhode Island program, which served 13 fellows in its inaugural 2020-21 class, will train 75 paraprofessionals this year. Two new, 10-student cohorts will launch in Philadelphia, where College Unbound already operates other programs, thanks to funding from the school district. Over 40 people remain on the waiting list, said David Bromley, College Unbound’s Philadelphia coordinator. In nearby Camden, New Jersey, the college is working with the teachers union to roll out programs there, too, he added.
The program hopes to train 200 paraprofessionals into full-time teaching careers over the next three to five years, and 500 by 2030. While the program may seem small at the moment, its interest and success rate are inspiring for states and school districts facing severe and persistent teacher shortages.
Maryland is one of those states. In Maryland, local school districts have tested and implemented a combination of the policies discussed above. Several LEAs have also attempted to address the state’s teacher shortage via financial incentives like retention and hiring bonuses, while others have increased minimum pay for school support staff. Others have adjusted school calendars to incorporate more administrative days off and teacher wellness bonus days.
School staffing challenges was also a topic of concern during the 2022 legislative session, during which several initiatives to boost hiring and retention of school staff were considered and one bill was passed to provide support staff with $500 bonuses in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 and to study the issue of staffing shortages and pay.