The current state of affairs in the area of recruitment and hiring of teachers in critical shortage areas is a major problem for school divisions. We discussed the problems that some divisions have finding and retaining certified teachers in the math and science areas. The group members that were from small, rural divisions expressed the great difficulty that they have in finding teachers in these areas. Their pay scales do not provide pay incentives for teachers in these areas. Teachers in these areas do not seem to find these small towns interesting or a place they want to teach. The State Department of Education does not help with recruitment in these areas or provide much support in helping us find teachers.
The group that would be marginalized most are the students from rural areas. These groups would consist of students from low socio-economic households.
The issue of most concern to me is finding and retaining qualified teachers in the areas of math and science. Students from rural areas are not always being taught by licensed teachers in these areas. They are not able to make the necessary gains in achievement, pass the SOL tests in these areas, earn verified credits and in some cases earn a standard diploma and graduate.
The issue that can most easily be addressed is one of licensure. The State Department of Education Licensure Department could come up with strategies to more easily allow teachers with a teaching license become certified in math and science in a less rigerous process. It is more important for students to be taught by a licensed teacher than by a substitute that holds no degree. Many divisions are having to put in long term substitutes in these classes while they continue to look for certified personnel. Teachers are allowed to apply for provisional licenses, but there are several courses that have to be taken in order to gain certification. Waving these requirements when it comes to critical shortage areas would allow teachers to be mentored and allow them to focus on this new curriculum.
The issue that I now have decided to address is the issue of recruitment and retention of teachers in the math and science areas. Living in a small, rural county makes this issue a priority for our school division. We cannot afford to just have “warm” bodies in our classrooms. We must be able to reach out in the community and to our universities to find teachers in these areas. If we could offer incentives or convince career switchers to join our faculty, our students would be better off in many cases than with the substitutes that we have to use. In today’s time of high stakes testing, we must provide our students with good instruction. They must be able to achieve.