This story was produced by 74 . is an independent news organization that focuses on education in America.
Annette Anderson, a Baltimore City Schools teacher and mother of three, witnessed a “coming tornado” of teacher shortages in the United States and the need to fill them.
Anderson, a John Hopkins University scholar on education leadership, became frustrated when district officials kept quiet about the mounting number of vacancies. In Maryland, however, the number of conditional certificates, which are valid for two years while new teachers gain classroom experience and work towards full licensure, has doubled in less than five years. The second-highest percentage of uncertified teachers in Maryland is 13%.
Anderson thought that the impact would be devastating, especially for children with low incomes.
Society has to pay a price because it has neglected this issue too long. Anderson stated that the most …” vulnerable students and their families will always be at risk. Anderson said, “We have doomed a whole generation of poor children because we failed to care enough about a coming storm.”
Anderson’s intuitions proved correct, according to new research. U.S. schools employ at most 163,650 unqualified teachers, who are not certified by the state or have no subject expertise. 2017 saw at least 109,000 teachers who were not qualified to teach in classrooms.
About 5% of U.S. teachers are underqualified. The states with the highest ratios to these hires relative the student population are Washington, Utah and Minnesota.
Nearly a quarter of Louisiana’s teachers taught out of their fields or were uncertified in science and math during the pre-pandemic school years.
Research shows that low-income, black, and brown students are more likely to be taught by unqualified teachers than their peers. This is despite federal law trying to prevent this by requiring states to develop plans to address disparities in Title I funding.
The rise in uncertified teachers has been fueled by a drastic drop in teaching candidates. Some states have seen enrollment drops close to 80%. The growth of an alternate sector of more than 200 schools across the country coincided with the trickling of new educators. Candidates may not need to be as prepared or take on as much debt.
Jacqueline Rodriguez is vice president of research for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. She stated that “it is really life or death for many students when their teacher is unprepared.” “Their lives are drastically different, and we must be taking that student into consideration when we deprofessionalize this field.”
Experts warn against the current attempts to fill vacant positions with people who do not have experience working with children or in schools. A temporary teaching certificate for five years can be obtained by military veterans in Florida.
These short-term solutions can be attractive in times of crisis but they pose equity and long-term funding problems.
Rodriguez stated that the dilemma is a Catch-22. You lower entry requirements and you place an unprepared person into a classroom. They don’t feel capable of meeting the needs of their students, so they leave.
She said that the influx of early career educators, many of whom had no intention of becoming teachers or don’t feel prepared to succeed, can put a strain on local budgets, and prevent students from benefiting from teachers who are more experienced.
Even states that appear to have mastered staffing problems can still be misleading numbers. Utah is an example of a state that appears to have managed to buck the decline in teacher preparation enrollments. It saw the greatest growth from 2010 to 2018. Mary Burbank, University of Utah associate dean for teacher Education, believes that the increase does not indicate a boom of quality teachers.
Burbank stated that a “floodgate” of unqualified teachers candidates was created in 2016 when Utah made it possible to teach alternative certification programs to college graduates, provided they pass licensure exams. According to research from Kansas State University and University of Illinois , the state had the highest ratio of underqualified teachers to students last school year.
Burbank stated, “There’s tension… I don’t think anyone’s thrilled.” “We want the classroom of a teacher ready for use on day one. The classroom should not be used as a testing ground.
Arizona has more than 5,000 vacant teaching positions. To fill these vacancies, districts have begun to hire student teachers in their senior years of college. Teachers colleges are unhappy about the practice and have asked districts for an end to it.
“We are saying that you cannot put these people in classrooms alone — you’re doing them an injustice. They won’t stay. You’re doing them a disservice,” Carole Basile, Arizona State University’s dean of teachers college, said.
Anderson’s parents are also concerned about the impact that inexperienced and underqualified teachers have on students. Anderson is concerned that a child who has their heart set on becoming doctors could lose the foundational years of STEM education.
“By sixth grade, your science teacher is a substitute for long-term. When you attempt to take a magnet exam for your district high school, your composite score does not make it through. Vocational courses are taken instead. The teachers are not as qualified. Anderson explained to The 74 that you may not make the grade necessary to pass the state assessment and graduate.
According to researchers, The 74 was unaware that the focus on shortages is not a crucial consideration in making quality education a reality.
Rodriguez stated, “Is there really an issue with schools being full-staffed?” Rodriguez disagreed. “The question is why states allow people who are not prepared to be in schools when they could be working towards short and long-term solutions for addressing shortages. So we don’t need to be discussing this in 2030.”