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Posted on Feb 4, 2016

Statewide teacher shortage impacts Quincy schools

A shortage of state certified teachers plagues school districts across Washington, including the Quincy School District.
“We’re hugely concerned about it,” said Quincy Superintendent John Boyd. “It is at the top of our list of concerns because it is getting harder and harder to find teachers. There are fewer teachers going into the college pipeline – they are just not turning them out.”
He noted the lack of teachers comes at a time when districts are trying to reduce class size, which educational research says results in better learning. To do that, more teachers must be hired.
The State of Washington Professional Educator Standards Board has followed the decline of teacher graduates from 15 Washington institutions during recent years. The number of graduates was 2,786 in spring 2011, but fell to 2,599 in 2012, 2,351 in 2013, and 2,277 in 2014.
Graduate numbers increased to 2,485 in 2015, but PESB indicated “much of this is due to a new program starting at Western Governors University.”
Despite the slight upturn, PESB stated in a report there was a 250 percent increase in demand for new teachers in Washington during the past five years. Things have reached the point where districts are asking about the legality of hiring teachers who are still in educational programs, according to PESB.
“This suggests that districts have hired all available teachers, including substitute and conditional credentialed teachers, and many are now looking in new areas, including students currently enrolled in teacher education programs,” the agency said in a report.
The PESB believes the current shortage of teachers is related to employment discrimination practiced several years ago.
“Women and minorities became teachers at higher rates because their options in the workforce were more limited,” according to its report. “That’s changed, and college graduates have broader opportunities.”
In Quincy, the problem isn’t limited to a particular subject area, although Boyd said science, math and special education teachers traditionally have been in demand. That was especially true of math and science from 2004 to 2006 when Seattle’s economy was ramping up, he said.
“Even general education is affected,” Boyd said. “It’s getting real tough, and it is even worse in a rural area like this. They’re even struggling in urban areas where there are lots of universities and colleges.”
Boyd said the state allows emergency certification for those with a college degree, but that isn’t a long-term solution.
The scarcity of certified teachers also affects school districts’ pools of substitutes. Last week, a bill to allow early retirees to work as substitutes without putting their retirement program at risk passed the State House in Olympia on a 96-1 vote. Next, it goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for a hearing.
Also floating through the Legislature is HB 1983, which would provide money for prospective teachers taking basic skills and tests for teacher certification programs. Another piece of legislation, HB 1293, mandates better training and support for para-educators.
Boyd believes the improving economy is at least partly responsible for the dearth of job seekers. When jobs are more plentiful, people look for positions that pay more than education.
“We’d love to have 10 or 15 qualified applicants,” he said, “but now we’re lucky to get one. And it’s going to get worse.”
Quincy schools “mostly” have teachers who are assigned to their certified subject areas, the superintendent said.
“We have some areas, just this year for the first time, where we’ve had to put teachers out of their endorsement area,” Boyd said. “Hopefully it won’t be a permanent situation.”


— By Steve Kadel,

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