- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson and Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow banded together to issue a plea last week to get teachers back in the classroom; and the state has set up a returntoteaching.org website to find out what it would take to get the roughly 30,000 Utah residents with teaching credentials to return, and to connect them with teaching opportunities that match their skills and interests, the Deseret News reports.
- According to Gov. Herbert, 42% of teachers who enter the teaching profession leave within five years and more than 50% leave in eight years, placing the teacher shortage at the top of the list of concerns for the state.
- Herbert is also urging voter support for the Our Schools Now initiative on the November ballot, which would indicate support for a 10-cent per gallon hike in the state gas tax that would allow the state legislature, if members approve the increase, to funnel a corresponding amount into state education funding and create a “big bump” in education spending at one time.
The website created to garner support for the Our Schools Now ballot question lays out the conditions in Utah that are prompting pleas from state and education leaders. The website says “Utah teacher salaries are the 6th lowest in the nation, while our student-to-teacher ratio is the 3rd highest. This puts an enormous strain on our kids, who do not receive the individual help they need, and schools, who cannot recruit and retain classroom teachers. Investing in these ways are shown to increase student achievement and without greater investment, these challenges facing Utah kids will only become worse.”
Utah is not the only state to go to extraordinary measures to encourage teacher recruitment and retention in the midst of a shrinking pool of teacher talent. Some schools, like those in South Carolina, are offering new incentives to teachers, while other states, like Maine, are looking at ways to ease requirements to become a teacher. In many areas, superintendents are calling on retired teachers to fill in the gaps.
States are recognizing the need to examine the reasons why the pool of available talent is so small and why so many teachers are leaving the profession. The returntoteaching.org effort is making an attempt to discover the root problems and look for solutions to address them. According to educational consultant Patricia Fioriello, teachers leave for four main reasons: low salaries, issues with student behavior, lack of support from parents and administrators, and the pressures of standardized testing. It will be interesting to see if the Utah results reflect this pattern.