Grow Your Own Programs Help Address Teacher Shortages and Increase Diversity in Education

The United States is facing a critical shortage of qualified teachers, particularly in underserved and high-needs schools. According to the Learning Policy Institute, by the 2025-26 school year, approximately 316,000 new teachers will be needed each year to keep up with student enrollment and teacher attrition rates. Schools with historically underserved students also experience a higher rate of teacher vacancies and inexperienced teachers who leave the field within a year or two. Grow Your Own (GYO) programs have become an increasingly promising solution for school districts to not only address their shortages but also recruit candidates with the skills, experience, and diversity to fulfill all the needs of their students.


  • Grow Your Own programs aim to recruit and train local students to become teachers with the goal of increasing diversity in the teaching workforce and addressing teacher shortages in underserved areas.
  • GYO programs often target substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, and other nontraditional candidates and provide them with mentorship, coursework and support to become certified teachers.
  • School districts face several challenges in creating and sustaining GYO programs, including funding, providing support for participants, and ensuring long-term sustainability.

GYO programs are designed to recruit and prepare teachers from within the communities they will serve. These programs often target long-term substitutes, paraprofessionals, high school students, and other nontraditional candidates and provide them with mentorship, coursework, and other support to become certified teachers.

Addressing Teacher Shortages and Increasing Diversity in the Workforce

Research has shown that GYO programs are effective in addressing teacher shortages and increasing diversity in the teaching profession. A study by the Center for American Progress found that GYO programs in Illinois and North Carolina were successful in recruiting and retaining teachers of color in high-needs schools. Another study by the Education Trust found that GYO programs in California were effective in increasing the number of teachers from underrepresented groups.

One of the key benefits of GYO programs is that they provide a pipeline of teachers who are already familiar with the communities they will serve. These teachers are more likely to have a deep understanding of the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of their students, which can lead to more effective instruction and better academic outcomes. Additionally, GYO programs often provide financial incentives for participants to stay in their communities after they become certified teachers, which can help address the problem of teacher turnover.

GYO programs also have the potential to address the root causes of the teacher shortage by increasing interest in the teaching profession among young people. By targeting and providing them with early exposure to the teaching profession, GYO programs can help create a new generation of teachers who are committed to serving their communities.

GYO programs can lead to more effective instruction, better academic outcomes, and increased interest in the teaching profession. By investing in Grow Your Own programs, school districts can create and sustain an effort to give all students access to high-quality teachers who represent and relate to them.

“If you’re a school looking to fill teacher vacancies as a lot of schools are addressing the teacher shortages across the country, my biggest piece of advice is to look into the classrooms. Look at the professionals that you have right now. A lot of times substitutes and para-professionals that are currently filling the gaps and stepping in for teachers of record are doing the work and have that commitment to students and they would be the right candidates. They just need those extra steps [and support] to get fully certified so that you can promote them and move them into a full-time teaching position.”

– Brandon Johnson, Student Advisor with the TeacherReady program

Challenges in Creating and Ensuring Stability in GYO Programs

Developing a quality Grow Your Own program is a huge undertaking. It requires expertise, time, and funding.

Once candidates are recruited, they need to receive the necessary training and support to become effective teachers. This means developing a comprehensive and always updated training program that covers teaching strategies, classroom management, student engagement and assessment, and professional fundamentals (and more).

Managing the day-to-day operations of a teacher certification program can also be expensive and time-consuming. Certification candidates need end-to-end support throughout the program, including advising, mentorship, and progress monitoring—all requiring systems and people with the expertise and time to support them.

To address this challenge, school districts can build partnerships with established preparation programs, community organizations, and other stakeholders to develop pipelines of potential teachers and provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed. A 2019 report by the Center for American Progress, Grow Your Own Teachers: Retaining Local Talent to Improve Rural Schools, states that successful GYO programs often rely on community partnerships to identify potential teacher candidates and provide them with mentorship, professional development, and ongoing support to help them succeed in the classroom.


School district leaders implementing “Grow Your Own” programs to address teacher shortages and increase diversity in the teaching profession should:

Think differently.

Recruit and prepare nontraditional candidates from within the communities they will serve, including long-term substitutes and paraprofessionals currently working in the schools.

Plan differently.

Consider financial incentives to support individuals who are interested in pursuing a teaching career through a GYO program.

Act differently.

Provide mentorship, coursework, and other support needed to help candidates become certified teachers.

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