Addressing the educator shortage through collaborative programs

Our work in the Region 8 Comprehensive Center focuses on creating customized solutions for Michigan and Indiana’s educator staffing shortages.

Through the Region 8 Comprehensive Center (R8CC), we deliver high-quality, intensive capacity-building services to state education agencies in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. With educator shortages in areas serving low-income families and crucial sectors like early childhood education, both Michigan and Indiana turned to innovative “Grow Your Own” (GYO) programs with the expertise of R8CC. This approach aims to harness talent within communities, ensuring every child can access a top-notch education.


Every state has its own needs, so while both Michigan and Indiana faced similar staffing problems, we needed to help create customized solutions for each one.

In Michigan, the education system faces a shortage of qualified educators and youth workers across the educational ecosystem, from early childhood education and care programs to K-12 school, and after-school and summer learning programs. The COVID-19 pandemic also gave rise to distinct challenges, with many educational institutions expanding services or introducing new programs to mitigate the crisis.

In Indiana, 96% of participating Indiana school districts reported teacher shortages in 2021, the highest in seven years of surveys by Indiana State University’s Bayh College of Education. Compounding these shortages is the lack of diversity among teachers. We also discovered that Indiana experienced a decline in students enrolled in the state’s educator preparation programs over the last decade, with fewer than half of enrollees completing their bachelor’s degree in education, and many leaving the state upon graduation—only 1 in 6 students who went to college in Indiana to become teachers began teaching in an Indiana classroom.


State education leaders increasingly turn to GYO programs like LAUNCH to address these shortages. A growing body of research shows that recruitment and preparation of future educators from high schools can encourage individuals to choose to teach in their home communities, even if they would not typically enter or complete an educator preparation program.

From its inception in Michigan, LAUNCH benefited from supportive policies and champions within the governor’s office and the state education agency: The governor’s “60 by 30” initiative and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) Strategic Plan called for the state’s young people to earn credentials that qualify them for immediate employment or higher education. The state’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) leaders and stakeholders built on the call, requiring that each CTE program support students in obtaining their credentials.

To solve their own educator recruitment and retention challenge, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), along with ICF through R8CC, designed the Indiana GYO Teacher program. The pilot initiative, organized as a partnership between one school district and their partner institutions of higher education, laid the foundation for a sustainable teacher pipeline program in just a few short years, aided by the IDOE’s “Attract, Prepare, Retain” grant that provided state funds to diversify the educator workforce.

Collaborating with R8CC across states

From the outset, our R8CC staff in Michigan played multifaceted roles as coordinators, knowledge-builders, and thought partners. They orchestrated bi-weekly gatherings of the LAUNCH project team, bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from higher education institutions, tribal representatives, and more, breaking down traditional silos within the education system. This collaborative spirit persisted even as the pandemic necessitated a virtual shift.

Similarly, starting in 2019, our Indiana R8CC team worked collaboratively with IDOE to develop pilot GYO teacher program plans. Efforts in the first year focused on locating and synthesizing resources and research on similar programs, including mentoring, marketing, and implementation strategies. By the end of the first year, IDOE used that knowledge to create a request for proposals (RFP) for districts applying as pilot sites for the GYO program.

Where we are now

In the fall of 2021, Michigan’s redesigned pathways formally launched in programs across the state. As the redesigned pathways took shape, the team encountered numerous challenges: Listening sessions with educators surfaced critical differences across programs, with many educators feeling ill-equipped, necessitating additional support and training. Our R8CC's response was swift, focusing on lending support, clarifying the implementation framework, and fortifying partnerships with pivotal organizations.

Now in its fourth year, the initiative marks a period of introspection. The team is committed to capturing the essence of the program, ensuring its replication in other states, and paving the way for more cross-office collaborations within the MDE.

Program enrollees have been positive. As one said, “...this class has shown me that I want to be a teacher!” and a recent program graduate relayed, “I was seeing that the content we were learning [in college], I had already done that in the classroom. I had an edge. I felt comfortable and confident that I can go off and do this on my own one day.”

The Indiana GYO initiative is underway, and our R8CC team continues its capacity-building services with IDOE. The story of Indiana’s GYO initiative is evident in the capacity-building for both IDOE and WCCS . R8CC helped shift IDOE’s understanding of GYO and is now helping them build a support system for districts looking to implement their GYO programs. As one WCCS administrator said, “I had great support throughout the GYO pilot. The regular meetings conducted involving participating high schools, higher education partnerships, Region 8 consultants, and the representatives from the DOE were extremely beneficial.”

Looking ahead

LAUNCH's initial implementation made significant inroads, with over 80% of Michigan’s intermediate school districts integrating it. The program's success is evident, with over 1,500 CTE students registering in the state’s professional development directory. And even though the standard program duration spans two years, several students showcased exemplary performance, furthering their educational and professional pursuits with great success.

Indiana has seen a number of successes in its efforts to address the teacher shortage. These include a 30% decrease in the number of vacancies posted on the state’s job board, 36 GYO programs, 21 teacher residency programs, and two Registered Teacher Apprenticeships, with many more in development for implementation in the next two years. The pilot school district’s GYO program has also grown, from 12 students in 2020-2021 to 42 enrolled for 2024-2025.

R8CC is essential in helping Indiana continue to find creative ways to address the teacher shortage issue, forming mutually beneficial and trusting relationships with IDOE and districts along the way. Indiana is now looking to enhance its GYO programs by coupling them with Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Programs to make becoming a teacher more attractive and attainable, especially to underrepresented students.

Talk to an expert today

Related work