Education program to benefit N’West Iowa | New
REGIONAL—Every public school district in N’West Iowa stands to benefit from a newly launched program designed to recruit more teachers and paraeducators amid a nationwide shortage of education professionals.
The 13 districts, plus the Emmetsburg School District, received $6,282,470 through the Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship (TPRA) pilot program.
Governor Kim Reynolds launched the program earlier this year and announced on June 9 that $45.6 million had been awarded under the statewide initiative. The money comes from the state’s allocation of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Implementation of the program will begin in the 2022-23 academic year and continue through the 2023-24 academic year. After that, the state will evaluate this program and determine whether to continue funding it.
The MOC-Floyd Valley School District is the designated fiscal agent for N’West Iowa schools benefiting from the program; collectively, districts in the area applied for the funds as the Northwest Iowa TPRA Consortium.
“This will help us address the teacher shortage,” said MOC-Floyd Valley Superintendent Russ Adams. “At least that’s one way to do it. It won’t be a panacea, but it will help, I hope.
The program will give current high school students the opportunity to earn a paraeducator certificate and an associate’s degree before earning a bachelor’s degree in education. It will also help existing paraeducators with an associate degree earn a bachelor’s degree while continuing to work in the classroom.
Money from the pilot program will help pay for students‘ tuition fees as well as the wages they earn working in the schools.
Colleges that partner with the Northwest Iowa TPRA Consortium to offer training courses include Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, Iowa State University in Ames, Northwestern College in Orange City and Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon.
As the consortium applied for the pilot program with the help of NCC, the community college tapped retired Center for Teaching and Learning Dean Gretchen Bartelson to help with the writing process. of the grant application.
Bartelson said she “practically jumped out of my seat” when she learned the grant application had been accepted.
“I’m really thrilled with the grant,” she said. “At first I was like, ‘Why?’ But there is going to be a real drop in the number of people entering education over the next few years. We’re going to have a hard time in America for teachers.
Bartelson noted that the coronavirus pandemic has hit two professions particularly hard when it comes to employment and retention: teachers and nurses. According to a survey by the National Education Association, about 55% of educators said they were ready to leave the profession sooner than expected.
“It changed so many feelings and attitudes,” Bartelson said.
Adams said MOC-Floyd Valley is fortunate to have filled all of its open teaching positions prior to the 2022-23 academic year, but the district still has paraeducational positions open. However, he recalls a recent conversation he had with a superintendent from a smaller district who was trying to fill five teaching positions.
“I said, ‘Oh, how many applicants do you have?’ and he said, “None,” Adams said.
Sheldon School District Superintendent Cory Myer spoke about the widespread teacher shortage while discussing the TPRA program at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
“The shortage of teachers is a very, very real concern. We talk about it a lot with our administrative team. We talk about it all the time all over the state,” Myer said. “It’s everywhere, and it’s worse than ever.”
He said most full-time teaching positions at Sheldon schools have been filled, although the college still needs a specialist teacher. The district — like several other districts in N’West Iowa — is also looking for more paraeducators.
Sheldon Schools recorded 14 paraeducator quits and hired 15 during the same period, according to board meeting minutes from July 2021 to June 2022. Most paraeducator hires were towards the beginning of the school year, while most of the resignations took place in the spring.
During that same school year, MOC-Floyd Valley saw 10 paraeducators quit and seven hired. Similar teaching gaps were present in the Boyden-Hull School District, where eight teachers resigned and only two hired, as well as in the Central Lyon School District with four teacher resignations and one on-time hire. full. The Lyon center also saw four paraeducators resign and two hired.
The George-Little Rock School District had 10 resigning and nine hired teachers as well as seven departing and six hired paraeducators. The South O’Brien School District broke even with eight teacher quits and eight teacher hires in the 2021-22 school year.
There is already interest among some high school students and existing paraeducators in the region to participate in the apprenticeship pilot program.
Adams, for example, said about five MOC-Floyd Valley paraeducators have expressed interest. Myer said a few Sheldon students were also curious to participate, as were about five paraeducators. Two Sheldon graduates who wish to pursue further education also plan to participate in the program. They worked as paraeducators while taking courses at CNC.
“They’ll work as paras for us, take their classes at NCC, and we’ll pay $7,000 a year for their tuition,” Myer said. “This has already had a positive impact on our ability to recruit paraprofessionals.”
Bartelson also spoke favorably about how the pilot program focuses on earning participants teaching credentials in addition to providing real-world experience.
“It’s one of the smartest learning programs out there, and it works well with existing educational structures in colleges and K-12,” Bartelson said.
“Where sometimes an apprenticeship program is a great idea, but it’s forced on schools in a way that doesn’t work well and doesn’t make sense to the schools participating in it, this one does. This one really makes sense.