Commentary: Illinois Invests in Educators Rising
By Lindsey Jensen
In an effort to combat teacher shortages, Illinois is investing $400,000 in Educators Rising for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. This investment will provide access to a nationally recognized educator pathway curriculum for every public school district in the state, at no cost.
In 2015, PDK International launched Educators Rising, formerly the Future Educators Association (FEA). Educators Rising is a national program with a record of success in inspiring diverse teaching candidates to join the profession. Its affiliates in 27 states serve 2,400 schools and more than 43,000 students, more than 52% of whom are students of color. By working with aspiring educators who reflect the demographics of their communities and are passionate about serving those communities, Educators Rising helps to address local shortages.
While districts can already form Educators Rising clubs, the new state investment will level the playing field by providing this ready-made, high-quality curriculum to the more than 600 public high schools in the state. Built around the National Board teaching standards and offering competency-based credentials for future teachers to develop their skills, the curriculum is adaptable to suit the needs of diverse districts, from a single semester course to a three-year program of study that includes dual credit coursework. Educators Rising student members gain access to meaningful growth experiences, such as state and national conferences and competitions, clinical experiences, and leadership opportunities.
This Educators Rising investment also makes it easier for districts to comply with statewide requirements. House Bill 3296, which passed unanimously in both chambers and as of June 1 awaits the Governor’s signature, will require every high school district to offer at least one College and Career Pathway Endorsement by 2025. With access to the Educators Rising curriculum, districts can now build an Education Pathway program without reinventing the wheel and offer dual credit coursework using personnel with master’s degrees in education.
The two-year funding window provides for a planning year required by most districts to develop course offerings and enroll students, and then an implementation year. Because Educators Rising is recognized as a Career and Technical Student Organization by the Illinois State Board of Education, districts can leverage federal Perkins funding to offer the program beyond the two-year initial launch funding by the state.
In Illinois, 27 schools currently use the Educators Rising curriculum, and Educators Rising is having a positive impact on teacher recruitment efforts. A 16-school network established in 1996 by Aurora University graduates an average of 75 Educators Rising participants every year, with 73% of those becoming education majors. With the majority of educators working within 15 miles of where they graduated high school, it is easy to see how developing local education pathways is essential to solving long-term teacher shortages. These benefits can be maximized with regional partnerships including multiple districts, as Aurora University has done, so that graduates who return looking for teaching opportunities have a greater chance of finding an opening that suits their certificate area.
Districts interested in building this kind of program are encouraged to begin by organizing an Educators Rising club, which comes at no cost and will help develop enough student interest to offer the curriculum. Districts should also take care in selecting the right teacher to lead this work. Future teacher programs are most successful when led by teachers who are proficient in the craft and who excel at connecting with students.