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5 Strategies States Are Using to Address Teacher Shortages

To ensure that schools are fully staffed, states are trying various strategies to attract more people into classrooms, including those who have not had any teacher training.

The pandemic has exacerbated teacher shortages in many regions and content areas, but the problem is not new: Enrollment in teacher education programs has fallen by more than a third over the past decade. Experts say a combination of low pay, poor working conditions and a lack of public respect has deterred people from pursuing careers in the classroom. Teacher morale has dropped since the pandemicalso, worsening the public perception of the work.

State policymakers are trying to bolster the teacher supply by offering salary increases and seeking alternative forms of teacher preparation. But these are longer-term strategies — state officials are also desperate to fill teaching positions as soon as possible.

Many states have relaxed employment requirements, raising concerns about putting underqualified teachers ahead of students who must make up for academic ground lost during the pandemic. Previous research has shown that less experienced teachers are more likely to teach classes with more students of color and children from low-income families.

Heather Peske, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based think tank that calls for more rigorous teacher preparation, said some of the ways states are making it easier for people to become teachers are “reflex , policies without data” that will do little to address the underlying reasons for teacher shortages in certain subjects and schools. (Shortages are generally more acute in subjects such as special education and in schools that are rural or have many children living in poverty.)

“Policy makers may be well-meaning, but they are moving forward with no real consideration of the data and no real consideration of the impact on children when we lower the bar to allow many unqualified people into the profession” , said Peske.

Here are five ways states are trying to fill teaching vacancies this year.

1. Removal of requirements for bachelor’s degrees

In Arizona, people can now start training to become a teacher without a bachelor’s degree, as long as they are enrolled at the university and supervised by a licensed teacher. However, if these candidates have an emergency teacher certificate, which is issued when a school cannot otherwise fill a vacancy, they can teach without supervision.

In Florida, unlicensed military veterans can now receive a five-year teaching certificate, provided they have earned at least 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average and can pass a state exam to demonstrate mastery of knowledge in the field. Veterans must be followed for at least two years by a more experienced educator.

About 400 veterans have applied for the program so far, according to news station News4JAX..

Policymakers and some administrators argue that these changes will make it easier to staff schools in times of shortage. Tonya Strozier, principal of Holladay Fine Arts Magnet Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, told Education Week in August that she believes the training and support she provides to all new teachers prepare them for class.

“When I get a teacher, I usually make a big investment in their training – they’re not ready,” she said. “There is always a big gap between theory and practice.”

Yet others fear that these policies devalue the teaching profession and negatively impact student learning.

“[Arizona officials] don’t care about the knowledge of the kids if they water down the degrees so you don’t have people who know their stuff, know how to teach,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said this summer. “That was always meant by a college degree, and they would never do that in professions or occupations that they deemed important.”

2. Relaxation of certification requirements

At least a dozen states have recently changed or are considering changing teacher certification rules. Some have changed the criteria for obtaining a license, others the qualifying score on state licensing tests, and some have dropped the tests altogether.

For example, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill in May that removes the requirement for teacher candidates to pass a general education exam covering communication, critical thinking, and numeracy. Lawmakers and state officials said the review was redundant and presented a financial barrier for future teachers.

The Missouri State Board of Education voted this summer to award teaching certificates to applicants who score below a standard error of qualifying score measurement, meaning they have it. missed by a few questions.

“The potential for thousands of Missouri students to have a well-prepared, duly certified teacher greatly exceeds the minimal risk that would arise from alternating the qualifying score for all initial teacher certification exams,” said Paul Katnik. , the deputy commissioner of the department, according to Fox2Now.

3. Bring retired teachers back

At least half a dozen states, including New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Virginia, have promulgated or are considering Strategies this year to encourage teachers to come out of retirementan analysis of EdWeek found.

Generally, states limit the amount that retired educators can work or earn while collecting retirement benefits. Many of these new laws lift these restrictions in the face of shortages. Instead, states allow retirees who return to class to collect a new salary while continuing to collect their retirement benefits, a practice sometimes referred to as “double dipping.”

Experts say this approach is a good way to quickly put experienced teachers in front of children, but warn it’s also a costly and short-term fix.

4. Rely on emergency certification

Several states issue emergency teaching certificates, usually to people with a bachelor’s degree and a background check, but no experience or classroom training. Districts are only allowed to hire these teachers when there is a critical shortage, but in some states reliance on this pool of personnel is increasing.

In Oklahoma, for example, the state has approved nearly 3,600 emergency certificates since June, an education department spokesperson said.

Still, certified emergency teachers are less likely than traditionally prepared teachers to stay in class for long, which experts attribute to their lack of classroom management preparation and training.

5. Hire professionals from other fields

In May, Oklahoma passed a law allowing “auxiliary teachers” to work in the classroom full-time. (Previously, they could only work 270 hours per semester.) Adjunct teachers are professionals, such as scientists, lawyers, or engineers, who have not met any of the standard certification requirements, but want to teach a matter related to their field of activity. skill.

“We are working hard to figure out how to fill the teacher labor pool, but those efforts are going to take time,” Senator Jessica Garvin, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said in a statement. “Right now, we need to make better use of the resources we have, including the professionals in our local communities who are ready to step in and fill these critical teaching positions.”

At the time of the bill’s signing, the state reported that assistant teachers were already helping fill more than 400 teaching vacancies.

Texas also has a state program that allows schools to hire uncertified individuals to teach industry-specific courses, such as high school career and technical education courses. But districts can expand the flexibility to hire these professionals for core subjects and lower levels, the Dallas Morning News reported..

“We’re not choosing this alternative because we don’t want certified teachers in every classroom,” Dallas School District Administrator Dan Micciche told the newspaper.. “We choose this tool because we cannot have enough certified teachers in each classroom. So what’s better?



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