Education

At least 28,000 teachers left Ky. classrooms since 2010, teacher shortage study says.

Approximately 28,000 teachers, or 7.3 percent of all teachers in Kentucky, left the profession between the academic years 2010 and 2018, according to a new study on the state’s teacher shortage.

The teacher shortage is occurring because the supply of available and qualified teachers can’t meet the demand for teachers who have specific certifications or there are fewer quality applicants than there are open positions, said the study from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability, which was recently presented to lawmakers.

In order to cope with the shortage, some principals in the state reported eliminating a class or classes such as world languages, the study said. Other principals increased class sizes, switched to online courses, or renewed ineffective, non-tenure teachers.

Some educators in Kentucky are teaching during their planning period, or principals are hiring emergency certified, out-of-field, or long-term substitute teachers, the OEA study found. An emergency teaching certificate allows a college graduate to fill a position for a maximum of one year with one renewal under certain circumstances.

The study said nearly one-third of those leaving the profession were beginning teachers with four or fewer years of experience. One-fifth had 26 or more years of experience.

Shelby County Schools Public Relations Coordinator Cyndi Skellie said this week that as a result of the teacher shortage, Collins High School in her district had offered a course that in part used video lectures. Skellie also confirmed that the school is looking to other states for teaching job candidates.

State Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, co-chair of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee that heard the report, said Kentucky was facing problems with teacher recruitment and retention.

“It’s very, very troubling... why are we not seeing more students going into teacher education programs? We know other states are facing this dilemma. It’s not just a Kentucky problem,” Wise said.

Teacher turnover, the percent of teachers from the previous year that did not return to teach at the same location in the following year, has increased over the past decade in Kentucky, the study found.

At the school level, average annual turnover was 14.1 percent in school year 2010 compared to 17.1 percent in school year 2019, OEA research analyst Allison Stevens told lawmakers on the subcommittee.

Principals reported that when turnover is high, schools have difficulty carrying out organizational goals and building relationships with students, parents, and the community.

Quality replacement teachers are often limited, and schools must spend time and resources training new teachers. Student achievement, disciplinary issues, and school culture can be negatively affected by new and inexperienced teachers, although some principals reported that turnover was beneficial to their school and created a positive culture shift.

When faced with few qualified applicants, principals said they often must hire candidates who do not meet their expectations of quality or experience, or hire substitutes. In addition, lower quality teachers cause more strain on the school to support and train them, principals said in a survey for the OEA study.

Principals report current shortages in nearly all subjects. Chemistry, high school mathematics, physics, engineering, technology, and world languages were reported by more than half of school principals as having no applicants or no satisfactory applicants in the most recent school year and fewer or considerably fewer applicants compared to five years ago.

More than 20 percent of current teachers in these subjects have more than 20 years of experience, indicating that one in every five teachers will be eligible for retirement in the next few years and might need to be replaced. These were also subject areas where teacher preparation programs produced fewer graduates compared to other subjects between school years 2014 and 2018. Comparing those areas with the number of teachers with 20 years of experience or more indicates that the supply of teachers might not be adequate to meet the current or future need for teachers.

The ratio of students per teacher increased from 14.8 in 2010 to 15.4 in 2019, Stevens told lawmakers. More than 20 percent of principals could not find applicants for nearly all subjects and more than 50 percent of principals reported being unable to find applicants in several subjects, Stevens said.

Approximately 28 percent of principals in regular public schools and 55 percent of principals in career and technical high schools reported in a survey for the study that insufficient salary and benefits compared to private industry was an extreme barrier to recruiting and retaining teachers.

State Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, a teacher, said she hoped that lawmakers took that problem into consideration as they looked at legislation for the 2020 General Assembly.

“Kentucky’s teacher shortage comes as no surprise to educators and administrators who see its effects every day in the classroom,” Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell said in response to the study. “There are fewer college students majoring in education and more educators leaving the profession after only a few years because of its low pay compared to private industry. Combine that with proposed cuts to pension benefits, and it’s no surprise that people are turning their back on the profession.”

“The average teacher’s starting salary in Kentucky is nearly $2,500 below the national average. The average teacher’s salary in Kentucky is $7,500 below the national average,” Campbell said. “.If Kentucky wants to provide a valuable education to our children, they have to value teachers and their profession.”

Schools with lower math and reading statewide test proficiency rates tended to have higher teacher turnover, higher percentages of minority students, higher percentages of students in poverty, and higher percentages of teachers with four or fewer years of experience, the study found.

After leaving the classroom to work for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, Brison Harvey took a job this fall at Lexington’s Jessie Clark Middle School as a digital learning coach.

“It was the opportunity to shift my focus to my passions within teaching: helping grow fellow teachers with the digital tools and strategies in their classroom,” said Harvey. “An opportunity like this did not exist when I left the classroom over a year ago. But this is the type of position that utilizes my strengths and area of expertise in a way that I find fulfilling.’’

Salary and benefits are a barrier, as are the some of the requirements of the course load required in some colleges, he said. Kentucky needs to do a better job of highlighting potential benefits, including student loan forgiveness, in order to remove the roadblocks to teaching, according to Harvey.

In one initiative to address the problem, the Kentucky Department of Education launched Go Teach KY in August, a campaign intended to “recruit and inspire the next generation of educators,” the study said.

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