Mississippi is facing a severe shortage of certified teachers — especially in the Delta region where, in seven districts, the percentage of uncertified teachers ranges from 19% to 34%, according to The Hechinger Report. Much of the problem, the publication notes, stems from steep certification requirements, which include a bachelor’s degree, completion of a traditional or alternate teacher training program, and passing Praxis.
During the past two years, two new programs managed by nonprofits have emerged in the state to help address the issue: RISE, created by a longtime educator, and the William Carey University School of Education’s alternate teacher-training program. Both programs seek to help connect potential teachers to the resources and training they need to be certified, The Hechinger Report notes.
- The state has also taken action by lowering the cutoff Praxis math score required for certification, hiring a full-time employee to focus on improving teacher recruitment strategies, expanding Praxis preparation programs, and creating new pathways to licensure beginning as early as high school.
The teacher shortage may affect almost every state, but it does so to different degrees and in different subject areas. However, there are some commonalities — math, science and special education teachers, for instance, are highly sought after in any state. Teachers for English language learner (ELL) classrooms are in greater demand in certain states, including California, Florida and New York. Educators of color are also needed because of what they bring to the profession and the lack of diversity that currently exists. And teachers who are willing to go to high-poverty schools are needed everywhere.
Requirements for certification vary widely from state to state as well. While high standards are needed to increase the likelihood of students having access to quality teachers, some arguably more arbitrary requirements — such as lowering the required Praxis math score — will likely make little impact on a teacher’s ability to teach history or English skills.
State policymakers and educators are exploring new alternative pathways to certification and new recruitment strategies. Some of these programs are designed to turn paraprofessionals into licensed teachers, while others hope to recruit students to the profession beginning in high school. Some programs specifically target attracting teachers of color — especially men — because of the value they bring to the profession and as role models to inspire a future generation of teachers. And while money is surely an incentive to attract more teachers to hard-to-fill positions, what many teachers also desire is an increased level of respect and better working conditions.
With differing teacher recruitment needs between states, districts or schools comes varying solutions. District and school leaders may be limited in terms of the salary they can offer candidates, but their leadership style does affect how they attract and, more importantly, retain teachers. As an Education Week article noted in examining a survey of 500 teachers, leadership may outweigh salary considerations when it comes to keeping them on the job. According to the survey, 18% of respondents cited leadership as a key factor deciding whether to go or stay on the job, while 17% cited salary considerations. Another 17%, the publication noted, named school climate.