*Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the group was calling for certification standards that did not require a bachelor’s degree. This was a misinterpretation. What the group is aiming to do is create a certification process that would operate separately from a bachelor’s degree program. Certified Michigan teachers would still be required to have a bachelor’s degree.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of 39 intermediate school districts from across the state is working on a new program that would allow prospective teachers to start the certification process separately from obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

The Talent Together partnership of intermediate school districts, which was founded in May, said that between 2008 and 2016, enrollment in Michigan teaching programs dropped 66%.

The group met virtually Tuesday to discuss its current initiatives and future goals.

The challenge of finding teachers is a constant worry for districts across the state, according to Superintendent Naomi Norman with the Washtenaw ISD.

“The educator shortage crisis in Michigan is among the worst in the country,” Norman said. “This Talent Together initiative is a response that has the opportunity to impact this pipeline on a statewide scale. Talent Together is committed to building a statewide program that is focused on quality.”  

The group of superintendents is proposing a certification process that allows people to become teachers more quickly and more easily switch to teaching from other professions.

Talent Together said the need is especially high in areas like special education, early childhood development and elementary, along with science and math in middle schools and high schools.

“This program will produces hundreds of additional teachers in the next five years,” said Char-EM ISD Superintendent Scott Koziol.  

Many schools also struggle to both recruit and retain teachers, according to Superintendent Eric Hoppstock with Berrien RESA.

“The amount of money that you spend to get educated is the same amount to become a teacher to becoming an engineer … but the pay on the back end is three to five times differential,” Hoppstock said.

The state has recently allocated $175 million to help address the teacher shortage.

Talent Together would like to become a certifying body, which would allow it to oversee standards and authorize program graduates to become teachers, according to Superintendent Kyle Mayer with the Ottawa Area ISD.

“We’re gonna have an intermediate school district hub in every county or region that works in close partnership with higher education and has the resources and expertise necessary to expedite the certification process,” Mayer said.

Talent Together has a goal of beginning the training program in the fall of 2023.