Detroit turns to teachers certified online to fill yawning gap
- The Detroit Public Schools Community District is, once again, staring down a new school year with a shortage of more than 200 certified teachers. The number of prospective teachers entering traditional certification programs in Michigan has plummeted by 62% since 2004.
- Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has raised salaries of veteran teachers, which has enticed a few educators over from nearby districts, but nowhere near enough. The sheer numbers needed is forcing the hiring of teachers with alternative certifications, according to Chalkbeat. The district's presentation of this option has drawn harsh criticism from the teachers unions.
- A main source of such newly-certified teachers in Michigan is Teachers of Tomorrow, an organization geared to helping mid-life career-switchers get into classrooms. The primary bone of contention with the company's certified teachers is that they are not required to log any training hours actually in a classroom. The entirety of the program can be completed online.
The marked decrease in young people entering the teaching profession is being attributed to a variety of reasons, including low pay and a lack of respect for teachers that simply wasn't the case decades ago. The result is that as older teachers retire, or younger ones bolt after getting burned out under the specter of standardized test pressure, more and more administrators have vacancies to fill year after year.
While not every state is experiencing a teacher-shortage crisis (Arkansas actually saw an increase for the first time in a decade), almost every state now offers prospective teachers alternative certification options. While teachers unions are, perhaps unsurprisingly, largely opposed to the hiring of teachers without traditional university education degrees, these pathways are gaining wider general acceptance as they bring several unique advantages to bear in the classroom. They tend to be more mature, have more in-depth knowledge of content areas, are a more diverse group, and are often able to step into the most-needed teacher categories, such as math, computer science, foreign language, and business.
On the downside, though, is their typical lack of knowledge of classroom-specific concepts, like classroom management and lesson planning. Still, the investment in providing such teachers with ample professional development and an assigned advocate at the central office level guiding them through the credentialing and licensing process can be worthwhile. Districts in states across the country are getting creative with attracting qualified teachers, with tactics ranging from recruiting from the Philippines, and offering signing bonuses and housing incentives to pulling excellent teachers out of retirement for a second act in the classroom.
- Chalkbeat Strapped for teachers, Detroit district looks to controversial teacher training programs
- Michigan Department of Education Trends in Michigan Teacher Certification