Does “Troops-to-Teachers” Work?

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Does “Troops-to-Teachers” Work?

August 19, 2023 - 08:12
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“Troops-to-Teachers” is a federal program to specifically assist servicemen leaving the Armed Forces transition into the teaching profession. There are at least two prerequisites: a Bachelor degree and a desire to teach in the K-12 environment. Originally authorized in 1992, Troops-to-Teachers started in the Department of Education but was transferred to the Department of Defense in 2013 and has suffered changes since then.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report on K-12 Education was titled “DOD Should Assess Whether Troops-to-Teachers Is Meeting Program Goals”.

My personal experience with this program dates from over a quarter century ago shortly after I retired from the active Army with a desire to teach or be a guidance counselor at the high school level in Western Wisconsin. I exceeded the “Troops to Teachers” prerequisites to include 30 graduate hours beyond my Master of Education degree and four years of experience in an Army “schoolhouse” primarily teaching and training soldiers in their military occupational specialty (to include class development, course revisions, performance research and non-traditional delivery methods). At a later duty assignment I received recognition for training programs I developed for Active Duty and Reserve Soldiers.

However, I did not investigate this program further after finding out the only place in Wisconsin where “Troops-to-Teachers” would be considered for employment was inner city Milwaukee. After more than twenty years moving around the country and around the world, I wanted to move to Western Wisconsin to be near family – not to inner city Milwaukee. I wondered why “Troops-to-Teachers” candidates met the needs of inner city Milwaukee but failed to meet the standards of the rest of Wisconsin. (There are five high schools within twenty miles of where I now live in the Coulee Region.)

But, I digress from the Report “DOD Should Assess Whether Troops-to-Teachers is Meeting Program Goals”. To make a valid determination the actual goal needs to be determined.

What is the goal of Troops-to-Teachers? Over a quarter century ago I understood the goal was to assist retiring military personnel to transition into the teaching profession. A recent newsletter reporting on the GAO report stated: “The U.S. Department of Defense needs to figure out if its Troops-to-Teachers program is meeting its goal to reduce teacher shortages in high-need schools and key subjects such as math, science, and special education.” It should be obvious that “assist retiring military personnel” and “reduce teacher shortages” are not the same. There may be a relationship - but they are definitely not the same!

If the goal is “reduce teacher shortage” then it shouldn’t even be in the Department of Defense budget. That mission should belong to the Department of Education. After reading the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that may not be right either as it should be a states’ rights issue.

What may be needed is a friendly nudge from the federal government encouraging the states to develop a non-traditional track to teacher certification that would both help military retirees transition to education and help fight teacher shortages. This is not a panacea, or a “free lunch”, as knowledge, skills, and abilities still must be met. This type of program may be beneficial to spouses of military personnel upon changes to duty stations every three or four years.

Money should not be a significant concern. Military retirees should have the Post 9/11 GI Bill (or similar benefit). There will be a cost at the state level for a few guidance counselors or academic advisors to evaluate the participants’ education and experience and determine what further schooling or experience may be required for certification purposes.

This impacts all of us: taxpayer, parent, participant, and educational administrator. Imagine the wealth of experience a person with a twenty-year military career that is otherwise qualified to teach would bring into the American classroom. This person not only brings knowledge, but the experience of living in many different areas of the country and probably overseas and the experience of working with fellow citizens of every ethnic description.

Troops-to-Teachers might be the basis of a question or two during School Board election campaigns early in 2024. Troops-to-Teachers definitely should be talked about in the State Superintendent of Public Instruction campaign in early 2025.

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