Community program

Community program could help Colorado teacher shortage

Solving the teacher shortage in Colorado is complex. Many solutions are explored, including a program that sees the community engage in education.

DENVER — Solving the teacher shortage in Colorado is a complex problem.

Many solutions are explored, including a program that asks the community to get involved in education in a different way.

With more teachers retiring than there are new teachers entering the classroom, COVID and the Great Resignation, the Colorado Department of Education said the combination of obstacles has resulted in a 17.1% turnover rate for Colorado teachers last year. This impacts children’s learning and puts pressure on staff.

However, when asked Brett Johnson, chief financial officer of Aurora Public School, about a new pay-for-success initiative, it’s an optimistic response.

The program was first reported by Chalkbeat.

Aurora has partnered with the nonprofit PEBC, a state-approved alternative educator preparation program.

“I think we’re interested in accelerating, as long as the bandwidth and funding is there,” Johnson said. “We are ready to expand this partnership.”

PEBC has raised $1.4 million from businesses and community partners to help defray the costs of alternative teacher training. It allows prospective teachers to complete a residency program in classrooms and work with mentors before becoming teachers themselves.

“Nationally, there are approximately 300,000 fewer teachers and school staff today than at the start of 2020,” said Evan Kennedy, PEBC’s senior director of strategic initiatives.

What is unique about this situation is that the investors cover the initial costs, not the teachers-in-training or the district. This type of training can cost between $6,000 and $14,000.

Money from investors can also cover up to $42,000 in educator allowances, higher than before.

Investors would be reimbursed if a teacher stayed in a district for three years with a small return.

“The retention rate for alumni of the residency rate is about 83% of them are still teachers after five years,” Kennedy said. He compared to these national figures which show that half of the teachers have left the profession after five years.

Johnson said there’s an inflection point between third and fifth grade where teachers often decide whether they want to stay in the industry or not.

He also said replacing teachers is expensive.

“We have 2,500 teachers. That adds up quickly, which is why I say millions,” Johnson said.

Aurora is part of the pilot program and encouraged by the operation of the small pilot programs.

Aurora Public Schools, as well as Durango, Montezuma, Cortez, Adams 13, Ignacio, Archuleta and Bayfield are all participating.

Kennedy said that as a nonprofit, it was difficult for them to find stable funding to support their programs, so investor funding provided some stability to their training program.

The districts, as well as the PEBC, will monitor its smooth operation over the next three years.

Of course, this program does not solve a big long-term problem of teacher compensation.

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