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Arizona has had a teacher shortage for a while, despite efforts to increase pay in recent years. More improvements are needed in that area, but it is not the only reason for the shortage. Now the state is adding to its recruitment tool bag with the Arizona Teacher Residency program.

The idea is to help college graduates transition from other fields or attract mid-career switchers. They will be brought into the program, part of Northern Arizona University, and given training, mentoring and support. After taking two years of graduate-level coursework, they will receive a master’s degree. They will have an in-school apprenticeship with a supervising teacher while receiving a living stipend. Besides the $15,000 stipend, there will be subsidized tuition.

According to azcentral, Arizona has a 19% annual teacher turnover rate, the highest in the nation. Schools were able to fill fewer than one of five open positions this year, and more than half of those hired were not fully certified.

The program’s mentoring is designed to help new teachers be better prepared and thus to feel success sooner. The program, which will begin in Phoenix and then spread, is similar to a medical residency program. Nationally, teacher residency programs have been known to attract people of color, which should be a goal.

Federal COVID-19 funds totaling $5 million are being injected to the program, an excellent investment. Federal funds may be used to continue the effort in the future. According to azcentral, research has shown that residency programs help in recruiting and also retention. Arizona needs both.

While many people leave the profession, others have a desire to teach and through this means, they may do it. The idea is to find more teachers, especially in such areas as special education, and also to help minimize turnover. Arizona — and its students — will be the beneficiaries.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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