West Virginia’s teacher shortage is getting worse.
Figures released by the state Department of Education show there are 1,544 non-certified teachers in classrooms this school year. That is up from about 1,200 last year and more than twice the number from 2015, when West Virginia hired approximately 600 non-certified teachers.
These non-certified teachers may be doing the best they can, but they are not certified to teach the discipline for which they are responsible. AFT West Virginia President Fred Albert said the growing number of non-certified teachers means the state is failing to provide the constitutional requirement of a thorough and efficient school system.
West Virginia is not alone. Teacher shortages are worsening across the country. Research for the Annenberg Institute at Brown University released this month determined that “Across every single indicator we measure, our findings show that the overall wellbeing of the teaching profession today is at or near historically low levels.”
The research found that fewer people are going into teaching. “Interest in the teaching professional among high school seniors and college freshmen has fallen 50 percent since the 1990s and 38 percent since 2010, reaching the lowest level in 50 years.”
Teaching is a profession, but research shows a growing number of teachers believe they are not getting the respect they deserve. The Annenberg report concluded “Perceptions of teacher prestige have fallen between 20 percent and 47 percent in the last decade, to be at or near the lowest levels recorded over the last half century.”
Teacher job satisfaction is at its lowest level in 50 years. The Annenberg report found that in the last few years, the percent of teachers who believe the stress of the job is worth it has fallen from 81 percent to just 42 percent.
More teachers are simply overwhelmed by the job. A survey of 4,665 pre-k-12 teachers by Adoptaclassroom.org found that 81 percent say their workload has increased, 80 percent say they are spending more time addressing students’ mental health, 71 percent are spending more of their own money on classroom materials and 58 percent have seen an increase in classroom disruptions.
The classroom frustrations, high turnover, teacher shortages, and of course the pandemic, all contributed to the decline in achievement in West Virginia. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests for fourth and eighth graders released last month were the worst ever, and behind only New Mexico.
Governor Justice has promised to push for another five percent pay raise for teachers and staff. That will help. The state also has an innovative program to get young people into the profession.
The Teach West Virginia program gives students a fast-track to the education field starting when they are in high school. Students can then graduate college with their bachelors degree and enter the profession in just three years.
But then can we keep them? The research shows teachers are increasingly frustrated and burned out by conditions that are beyond their control. Those are deep structural and societal issues that drive too many talented teachers away from the classroom.