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Alabama is not doing enough to solve teacher shortage ‘crisis,’ board member says

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Alabama has done a lot to remove barriers to get more teachers into K-12 public schools, but it isn’t enough, state Board of Education member Tonya Chestnut said.

“Help me to understand why we are not addressing what we have publicly said is a crisis,” Chestnut asked at Thursday’s board work session in Montgomery. Chestnut represents most of the Black Belt counties, where teachers have been in short supply for years.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey rattled off some of the changes officials have made to get more teachers into classrooms, including paying full-time middle and high school math, science and computer science teachers higher salaries through the TEAMS program.

This is the first year the higher pay scale went into effect, and the last reported numbers show 1,100 teachers are now being paid on the TEAMS salary schedule.

Mackey told board members he received a call from a superintendent in a rural area where math and science teachers have been scarce. She was able to fill all positions.

“She said this is the first time she would have no math and science openings when school starts next year,” he said, mostly because of the TEAMS program.

The new expanded salary matrix for teachers with nine or more years of experience is also helping, he said.

“I’ve talked to several superintendents who say they have multiple teachers who are rescinding their retirement.”

The Teachers Retirement System is analyzing just how many teachers did so, he said, and he’ll present those numbers in June.

Read more Ed Lab: Alabama schools work to keep competitive teacher pay amid state raise.

The state also allowed those who let their teacher certifications lapse to get them back.

Mackey said the department recently granted “clemency” to people who once held teaching certificates but did not renew them for one reason or another.

“Five hundred people last month asked for their teaching certificate back,” Mackey said.

Because the department is not adding any academic requirements, the process is easy, he added. A new background check is required, and the person’s certificate must not have been removed because of wrongdoing.

That option is available until July 1, 2023, according to state documents.

Chestnut persisted. “We have children that need teachers that we need to have in the classrooms in the fall.”

Six of the 10 school districts with more than 10% of educators operating with emergency certification are in Chestnut’s district. Here are those districts, with the percentage of educators operating with emergency certificates during the 2020-21 school year, the last year for which data is publicly available:

  • Lowndes County – 18%
  • Wilcox County – 17%
  • Dallas County – 14%
  • Sumter County – 13%
  • Bullock County – 11%
  • Macon County – 10%

For comparison, 17 school districts, none of which are in Chestnut’s district, had no educators certified on an emergency basis during the same time period, and all but one are city school districts.

“We’ve got to come up with some kind of solution,” Chestnut said. “My question, in the meantime, is what are we going to do to support the school systems that are still in crisis with regard to teacher shortages?”

Neither Mackey nor other board members offered any short-term solutions. The state has convened task forces and conducted studies on what to do to recruit and retain teachers in hard-to-staff subjects and geographical areas. Implementing all of those solutions takes a “multi-pronged approach,” Mackey said.

“These things are working,” he said. “There are still pockets where the shortage is much worse than others. And there are still shortages everywhere. There are just not enough teachers out there. ”

#Alabama #solve #teacher #shortage #crisis #board #member

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