The state Department of Education will release figures later this fall on teacher vacancies in West Virginia. The department reported 1,196 vacancies last school year and Dr. Carla Warren, Director of Education Development and Support, warned during an appearance on Talkline recently that the number this year will be even greater.
“We’re still dealing with the pandemic, resignations and (fewer) teachers entering the field, so I think that number is projected to go higher,” she said. Additionally, school systems struggle to find enough bus drivers and fill all other staff positions.
West Virginia’s problem is not unique.
A recent survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the U.S. Education Department, found that a growing number of school districts face persistent teacher and staff shortages.
Here are some of the findings:
–Fifty-three percent of all public schools reported in August they were understaffed heading into the new school year.
–The schools with vacancies reported they had the most trouble filling positions for special education, math, science, foreign languages, and career or technical education.
–Two out of three public schools reported too few candidates or a lack of qualified candidates applying for open teaching positions.
–Of all public schools with vacancies, three-fourths reported that filling transportation staff positions was “very difficult.”
–Sixty percent of public schools reported they ”have not been able to fill non-teaching staff positions since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The teacher shortage is caused by fewer individuals going into the profession and an increasing number of teachers deciding to leave the classroom. An American Federation of Teachers survey earlier this year found that 74 percent of teachers were dissatisfied with their job.
Dirck Roosevelt, director of doctoral specialization in teacher education at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, told Vox News, “There is definitely a crisis of morale and confidence. The belief that one can do good work and do good for young people and have a rewarding, satisfying career in teaching has gone down the tubes.”
Roosevelt said the teacher shortage has worsened as the public has increasingly expressed distrust with public schools. “Relentless tsunamis of mandates related to what to teach, what not to teacher, and the endless folly of how to measure everything” has eroded teacher autonomy.
These factors and more combine to create a perfect storm—skilled individuals leave the teaching profession (or never enter it) resulting in poor outcomes for students, which leads parents and public officials to criticize and call for more oversight, which discourages teachers.
This troubling trend, if it continues, will lead to a less well educated citizenry, and that does not bode well for maintaining a stable republic or filling the increasingly complex jobs in our economy.