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State aims to convert 90 teacher aides into certified educators

By: - July 10, 2023 5:18 pm

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About 90 teacher aides from more than 50 school districts have been selected for a program to help them become fully certified teachers.

Over a span of two years, the aides will have the opportunity to complete accredited coursework virtually outside of work – ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree. Participants will be responsible for up to $1,000 per year to assist with tuition, the cost of required books and the cost of testing.

“This new opportunity will allow South Dakotans to work towards their bachelor’s degree this year, while still providing them the freedom to continue working,” Gov. Kristi Noem said in a news release.

The Teacher Apprenticeship Pathway aims to address a statewide teacher shortage by helping para-educators who are already employed by school districts to obtain full teacher certification. During the 2022-23 school year, about 175 teacher vacancies went unfilled in the state, according to the state Department of Education.

State Education Secretary Joseph Graves said he is “very excited for these para-educators.”

“They are all fitting candidates to fill the state’s teacher pipeline,” he said in a news release. “They already live and work in our communities, and they are committed to providing their students with the best possible education.”

Northern State University and Dakota State University have partnered with the state Board of Regents to offer the coursework. 

The state Department of Education will oversee and provide funding for the program, and the state Department of Labor and Regulation will also provide funding and guidance.

Multiple inquiries by South Dakota Searchlight to state officials about the program’s expected cost and funding source were not immediately answered.



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