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“Grow Your Own” Programs Can Build Equity in Local Schools and Communities, Explains New Policy Brief

BOULDER, CO (May 19, 2022) – Grow your own (GYO) programs are designed to recruit, prepare, and place community members as teachers in local schools. They do this through partnerships between educator preparation programs, school districts or local educational agencies, and community-based organizations. The nation is currently seeing new and thoughtful uses of the approach.

Particularly intriguing are models with an explicit commitment to advancing justice and equity in teacher development, which can be leveraged to open doors to the profession for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers with roots in, and understanding of, the community. These models are examined in a new NEPC policy brief from Conra D. Gist of the University of Houston, titled "Grow Your Own" Programs: Examining Potential and Pitfalls for a New Generation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Community Teachers.

The recent increase of federal, state, and district GYO initiatives to recruit community teachers is timely, signaling a new era of GYO program development in the 21st century. However, Professor Gist cautions, despite the enthusiasm about the potential of GYO programs to advance educational equity for BIPOC students, research on BIPOC educators has generally offered a cautionary note for any teacher development program that focuses too much on recruitment—without equally responsive preparation and strategic retention structures.

For programs to improve retention of new teachers, they must consider how the teaching and learning needs of BIPOC teachers evolve as they progress along the teacher development continuum. Even if programs evidence some upticks in teacher retention, a shortsighted approach to teacher development may leave these teachers without the guidance and resources needed to enhance their students’ learning. To help policymakers avoid these pitfalls, Professor Gist considers historical lessons from past community teacher development initiatives as well as emerging research.

Professor Gist concludes by sharing recommendations for GYO program designers, policymakers, and researchers. The recommendations will help ensure that new GYO programs are crafted in ways that prepare and sustain BIPOC community teachers.

Find "Grow Your Own" Programs: Examining Potential and Pitfalls for a New Generation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Community Teachers, by Conra D. Gist, at:

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: