Teaching qualifications

Loosening teacher qualifications remains a major concern in shortage discussions

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Diving Brief:

  • When looking for teacher shortage solutions for some districts and states, the line between innovative ideas and concerning ideas is thin, panelists said during a webinar Thursday hosted by the Johns Hopkins School of Education. As an example, some panelists cited Florida state policy enable veterans to teach without a bachelor’s degree, saying that putting unqualified educators in classrooms will only hurt students.
  • But there are ways to work with community members without relaxing certification standards to allow more people to teach in schools, said Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland. Solutions like tutoring, for example, can allow the community to get involved and better support teachers, she said.
  • Panelists also pointed out that teachers are caught up in an ongoing political and cultural war while feeling isolated as some teach alone because they don’t interact with their peers all day. “There is so much community, connection and support that is missing in many teacher experiences,” said Alejandro Diasgranados, DC’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.

Overview of the dive:

While there are ongoing debates about the extent of the teacher shortage’s impact on districts nationwide, concerns remain, said David Steiner, executive director of the Institute for Education. Policy, during the webinar.

“Even in cases where we are not in an extreme emergency situation, we have problems,” Steiner said. “We’re in a country that has hundreds of thousands of underqualified teachers in front of its students, and that number keeps growing. It’s deeply worrying.

On top of that, there is a shortage of teachers of color, he said, and as the responsibilities of all teachers increase, they are also working in siled classrooms.

“After going through the hybrid or online experience, teachers want more flexibility, but they also want to feel like they’re part of a team, and a team valued by their principal and their community,” Steiner said.

Because the profession has become too cumbersome, too isolating and too unrewarded, Steiner said, he fears the decline in the number of trained teachers entering the profession will worsen.

But a good teaching environment and a supportive school leader who empowers staff to be better educators and fosters a sense of community can help keep teachers in the profession, Diasgranados said.

One reality that isn’t discussed enough is that teachers are also under closer scrutiny and feel attacked by parents and members of their own community, said Sharon Contreras, CEO of The Innovation Project and former superintendent of schools in the Guilford County in North Carolina.

Thirty-seven percent of teachers and 61% of principals said they were harassed about COVID-19 safety measures or lessons about race, racism, or bias in the first half of the 2021-22 school year, a RAND Corp investigation finds. Additionally, state policy proposals to restrict classroom discussions on topics about racial, gender, and LGBTQ identities have skyrocketed 250% last year, according to a recent report by PEN America.

Although salaries were generally low for teachers, there used to be a general respect for the profession – but that too has disappeared, Contreras said.

There are good ideas to help improve those working conditions, like offering staff wellness days, she said, but state policies need to be flexible enough to support those ideas in the first place. if the objective is to retain excellent teachers.