Million-dollar grant provides no-cost pathway for aspiring educators through local institutions

Amid a growing national teacher shortage and declining educator preparation program enrollment, Houston Independent School District is creating pathways for aspiring educators to become teachers for free and get paid to do so. Through a new Grow Your Own grant program, participants will be able to earn their bachelor’s degree and Texas teaching license while being paid as a full-time teaching assistant in HISD.

On May 12, 2023, HISD launched its Grow Your Own Competitive Grant which will offer up to 10 grants of $100,000 each to Education Preparation Providers (EPPs) that can offer high-quality, low-cost pathways to aspiring educators who currently hold an associate degree (or equivalent 60 credits). EPPs meet strict TEA standards as high-quality institutions that recruit and prepare qualified educators to meet the needs of all students in Texas classrooms. A list of approved EPPs can be found here.

Additionally, the grant program prioritizes a high-quality yearlong residency experience and time spent in the classroom and recruits directly from local communities. Awardees also will agree to work with the district in establishing their Grow your Own as a registered apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The early application deadline is May 26, 2023.

Even before the global pandemic, the number of students nationally earning an undergraduate degree in education had been on a steady decline. Mirroring those trends, HISD had more than 550 teacher vacancies during the 2022-2023 school year, specifically in high-needs subject areas like Special Education, Math and Science, ELA, and Bilingual Education.

To find sustainable recruitment and retention solutions, HISD sought feedback from hundreds of teaching assistants employed with the district who expressed interest in becoming a teacher if presented with the right pathway. In many cases, that would mean removing financial barriers.

“We have so much talent already serving our community who just need the opportunity and support to become full-time teachers,” Kaylan Connally, Executive Officer of Talent Strategy said. “This new GYO grant will help our district reduce teacher vacancies in critical shortage areas and build a strong pipeline of aspiring teachers who can be hired as apprentices and ultimately become effective teachers in HISD.”

​​​All Texas Education Agency approved EPPs from Texas public universities, colleges, and community colleges issuing bachelor’s degrees are eligible to apply. EPPs are encouraged to apply for multiple grant awards.

The grant is heavily weighted in favor of a higher number of candidates served while still maintaining program quality. It also gives preference to programs that equip teachers to teach high-vacancy subject areas such as special education. It is open to bachelor’s degree-granting programs only.

For more information on submission guidelines, steps to apply, and terms for the applicant, click here.