FILLING THE EDUCATOR PIPELINE: National Partnership to Recruit, Prepare and Support Family and Consumer Sciences Educators.
What can be done about recruiting, preparing and supporting CTE teachers? Is it possible to be innovative and collaborative in an approach to resolve the issue? The answer is YES!
The family and consumer sciences (FCS) profession has documented a national need for increasing the number of FCS educators for the workforce. The nationwide closure of 153 FCS educator preparation programs (Hall & Miller, 1989; National Coalition for FCS Education, 2015) has disadvantaged individuals who want to join the FCS workforce and employers who want to fill vacant FCS educator positions. This article highlights a collaborative national project that offers resources for states and local districts to use to address the educator shortage. Further, the national partnership makes it possible to replicate recruitment efforts and high-quality teacher preparation strategies in other CTE content areas.
Assessing the Need
Articles in the popular press support the role FCS serves in addressing pressing societal challenges by emphasizing the need for the resurgence of FCS education (Gould, 2014; Graham, 2013; Harvey, 2018; Kemp-Jackson, 2016; Tapp, 2017). A well-trained workforce is critical to offering FCS education programs to communities. As reported in the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, Werhan (2013) identified a 26 percent decrease in the number of FCS educators over the past 10 years. Data from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) (2015) indicates that there is a documented and increasing shortage of FCS educators in secondary education, higher education and extension education.
Gutter & Stephenson (2016) specifically described the nationwide need for qualified FCS educators with a broad background and understanding of the body of knowledge in extension programs. The number of institutions offering FCS educator preparation programs has declined sharply in the last 30 years. In 1984, there were 261 FCS educator preparation programs in the United States (Hall & Miller, 1989). According to information provided by the National Coalition for FCS Education (2015), that number had dropped to 108 by 2015. Thirteen states no longer offer baccalaureate FCS educator preparation programs, and the low number of students enrolled in the remaining baccalaureate FCS education programs cannot fill the numerous openings (Werhan, 2013). As a result, many school districts have either closed FCS programs or hired educators through alternative routes.
The National Association of State Administrators of Family and Consumer Sciences (NASAFACS) expressed great concern about the shortage, identified the need for comprehensive educator recruitment efforts, and adopted the Say Yes to FCS campaign in 2014 (Randel & Spavone, 2016). More than 300 FCS colleagues convened in June of 2015, 2016 and 2017 at national leadership summits to further develop and advance the campaign through a national strategic plan.
Summit participants included representatives from state departments of education, school districts, educator preparation programs, university administration, extension services, professional associations and industry partners. Summit participants received data defining the status of the FCS educator shortage. Following the data briefing, participants worked together to discuss and create national strategic initiatives to address the shortage and to enhance the recruitment, preparation and retention support needed for FCS educators entering the workforce. The national strategic initiatives would benefit the following audiences:
* School districts in states that no longer have baccalaureate FCS educator preparation programs but need to fill FCS education positions in their communities
* Educators who have received conditional FCS educator licensure and have been placed in workforce positions in states without access to baccalaureate resources and support systems for delivering FCS education and earning initial FCS licensure
* Place-bound individuals who would like to be FCS educators but lack access to baccalaureate- and post-baccalaureate-level preparation programs, and/or lack information about licensure requirements and available resources to help them prepare for the workforce
* State departments of education and educator preparation programs with limited resources for recruiting, preparing and supporting FCS educators
* Secondary students who are not knowledgeable about FCS career opportunities and the resources available to help them prepare to become FCS educators
* County and state extension programs with limited resources for recruiting, preparing and supporting FCS educators
Solving the Problem
The national FCS educator recruitment and preparation initiatives identified in the June 2015 leadership summit were the profession's first attempt to collectively and holistically address the FCS educator shortage. In the past, individual organizations and interest groups worked independently on their goals to support FCS education. To resolve the problem, the community needed to develop a self-sustaining infrastructure for using national leadership academy summits, regional and state partnerships, professional association partnerships, and industry partnerships.
In The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki (2004) reinforces the accepted wisdom that groups of people are better at solving problems and at making good decisions, and are more innovative than individuals working alone. The employability skills identified by Crawford et al. (2011) for new graduates are the same as those needed by stakeholders to resolve the problem. To address the shortage, stakeholders need to demonstrate experience in effective communication, problem solving, self-management, teamwork, professionalism and leadership. Implementation of the national strategic initiatives would require interaction among academic institutions to create efficiencies for all stakeholders, expand recruitment efforts, increase candidate access to information about licensure options and FCS content resources, and strengthen the preparedness of FCS educators entering the workforce from multiple pathways. Thus, a collaborative approach to improving the recruitment and preparation of FCS educators would require sharing resources and expertise to align the various partners' strengths with the national initiatives that best match their areas of specialization.
In April 2018, the State University of New York (SUNY) - Oneonta; the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA); and AAFCS were awarded a three-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), to establish the National Partnership to Recruit, Prepare and Support Family Consumer Sciences Educators. The grant includes approximately $750,000 plus matching funds from the three partners (for a total of $936,572) to address the documented shortage of FCS educators on a nationwide basis. The project facilitates collaborative interaction with education institutions, state departments of education, extension programs, K-12 educators and students, professional associations, student organizations, and industry partners across the country. Fourteen organizations and industry partners have agreed to participate in the funded project.
The goal of the funded project is to create and use a national leadership academy and self-sustaining model to address, holistically, the need for an increase in the number of qualified FCS educators, based on the following objectives:
1. Produce and/or distribute resources to support FCS educator recruitment and preparation. These include state and national curriculum resources; state licensure information; scholarship and financial aid information; leadership, skill and knowledge development webinars; and a national directory of educator preparation options.
2. Promote FCS workforce opportunities to wide audiences to recruit diverse candidates.
3. Share postsecondary faculty, courses and students on a national level. These actions maximize the use of resources by providing a sequence of online FCS content and pedagogy courses needed for educator licensure.
4. Provide targeted support to the Northeast region. The majority of the academic institutions in this region have eliminated FCS educator programs, and few of them are assisting school districts or extension services.
Implementing Grant Projects
The grant projects focused on preparing and supporting educators are aligned with the recently revised National Standards for Secondary FCS Education, the National Standards for Teachers of FCS and the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP). The DQP, beta tested at more than 400 colleges and universities in 45 states, identifies a baseline set of reference points for what candidates should know and be able to do in order to earn educator licensure at the bachelor's or master's level. The DQP provides a qualitative set of learning outcomes organized within the five broad, interrelated categories of specialized knowledge, broad and integrative knowledge, intellectual skills, applied and collaborative learning, and civic and global learning (Lumina Foundation, 2014).
Specifically, over the next three years, the funded grant will implement the following:
1. Create an online national licensure directory, by state, to help candidates identify and meet specific state FCS requirements.
2. Create an online catalog of state FCS curriculum guides and resources that candidates and educators can access to help them develop and deliver quality FCS programs.
3. Create and facilitate an online bank of free webinars to provide educators with information on current FCS topics and pedagogy strategies.
4. Create an online overview of preparation options (traditional and alternative model programs, credit for prior learning, national map and directory of providers, etc.).
5. Provide an online summary of available scholarship opportunities, financial aid links and loan forgiveness information for high-need teaching fields.
6. Create a bank of online FCS content courses that will be delivered by multiple universities, on a rotating basis, for place-bound candidates seeking licensure.
7. Create and implement a national Say Yes to FCS marketing plan and products.
8. Facilitate national leadership academy summits to advance FCS educator recruitment, preparation and support.
9. Create and facilitate a targeted development and support network for the Northeast region.
By combining resources and sharing expertise to form best practice models, this partnership will create national resources that can be accessed and replicated or adapted at state and district levels with their stakeholders. The USDA-NIFA support will make a significant impact in increasing awareness of career opportunities and access to career preparation resources. Combining university resources and grant funds with professional and student association resources, and with industry and education partner expertise, creates a synergy that facilitates a cost-effective, collaborative and holistic approach to developing high-quality educators that meet state and national workforce needs, an effort that can be replicated and sustained over time.
By Jan Bowers & Lori A. Myers
Jan Bowers, Ph.D., CFCS, is the dean of the school of education and human ecology at State University of New York (SUNY) - Oneonta and serves as the project investigator. Email her at Jan.Bowers@oneonta.edu.
Lori Myers, Ph.D., CFCS, is the senior director for credentialing, education and research at the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Email her at LMyers@aafcs.org.
American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences. (2015). Say yes to FCS: Recruit FCS educators. Retrieved from https://www.aafcs.org/sayyes/sayyes-recruiter/recruiter-information.
Crawford, P., Lang, S., Fink, W., Dalton, R., & Fielitz, L. (2011). Comparative analysis of soft skills: what is important for new graduates? Washington, DC: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Gould, S. (2014). Feminism and home ec: An unlikely partnership? AAUW Community. Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/2014/07/31/feminism-and-home-ec/.
Graham, R. (2013). Bring back home ec! The Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/10/12/bring-back-home/EJJi9yzjgJfNMqxWUIEDgO/story.html.
Gutter, M., & Stephenson, L. (2016). Family and consumer sciences extension educator pipeline: Career pathway potential. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 33(Special Issue 1), 8-15. Retrieved from http://www.natefacs.org/Pages/v33se1Gutter.pdf.
Hall, H., & Miller, S.W. (1989). Home economics educator education into the 21st century. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 87(2), 7-14.
Harvey, M. (2018). Bring back home economics class because our kids lack basic life skills. Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/08/04/bring-back-home-economics-class-kids-lack-basic-life-skills.
Kemp-Jackson, S. (2016). It's time to bring back shop and home economics classes. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/samantha-kernpjackson/bring-backhome-ec-and-shop-class_b_11398220.html.
Lumina Foundation. (2014). The degree qualifications profile. Retrieved from http://www.luminafoundation.org/resources/dqp.
National Coalition for FCS Education. (2015). http://www.facsecoalition.org/.
Randel, G., & Spavone, S. (2016). Say YES to FCS: A national campaign to meet the demand for FCS teachers. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 33(Special Issue 1), 20-26. Retrieved from http://www.natefacs.org/Pages/v33se1/v33selRandel.pdf.
Shipley, A., & Crocoll C. (2016). USDA says yes to supporting FCS: The role of the United States Department of Agriculture in FCS research, education, and extension. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 33(Special Issue 1), 27-35. Retrieved from http://www.natefacs.org/Pages/v33se1/v33selShipley.pdf.
Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies and nations. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Tapp, F. (2017). Bring back home ec. Bright. Retrieved from https://brightthemag.com/bring-back-home-ecf72cd8090d12.
Werhan, C.R. (2013). Family and consumer sciences secondary school programs: National survey shows continued demand for FCS educators. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 105(4), 41-45.
To learn more about the funded project and get involved in project activities, visit www.aafcs.org/sayyes.