- Report Published -
|Ways to Relieve Critical Teacher Shortages|
|Department of Education; State Council of Higher Education for Virginia|
|HJR 628 (Regular Session, 1995)|
|National and state research supports the conclusion that a critical shortage of teachers does not currently exist in all disciplines in public schools; however, research does support the conclusion that a critical shortage of teachers exist in selected teaching areas. In Virginia, teacher shortages are most acute in all areas of special education -- speech pathology, hearing preschool handicapped, learning disabilities, and mental retardation. Other shortage areas, though less severe, in Virginia include chemistry, physics, earth and space science, foreign languages, and technology education. Also, minorities and men are proportionally underrepresented in the teaching profession in Virginia and in the nation.|
Programs to increase the pool of teachers must focus on these critical shortages. To enhance the pool of licensed teachers in these priority areas, the following strategies are recommended.
Reinstate the Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program
The Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program should be reinstated. Funding requested to restore the Scholarship/Loan Program during the 1996-98 biennium follows:
1996-97 - 100 scholarships -- cost $600,000
1997-98 - 100 scholarships -- cost $600,000
1996-98 Biennium - 200 scholarships -- cost $1,200,000
The debt-reduction loans resulting from this funding request would be used to provide 100 grants per year at a maximum of $6,000 per recipient. The scholarship/loan is intended to offset the cost of tuition for professional studies coursework completed by the prospective teacher. Upon graduation from an approved program and employment in a critical shortage area, $2,000 would be forgiven for each year a recipient teaches in the public schools of Virginia.
Since the areas of teacher shortages may change, the Department of Education will report periodically on the need for teachers. Scholarships will be available to individuals entering critical shortage areas. Males enrolled in programs to teach elementary or middle school and minorities in all teaching areas would also be eligible for nomination for the scholarship loans. Eight scholarships, one for each of the eight Superintendents of Public Instruction's regional study groups, would be earmarked for students who have participated in Virginia Future Educators of America Clubs and who plan to teach in a critical shortage areas.
Alternative Routes to Licensure
Action is not needed to implement additional alternative routes to initial licensure to increase the pool of teachers; however, existing alternative routes to licensure in Virginia must be continued. Approximately six percent of teachers (500 of the 8,000 teachers licensed each year) are trained through an alternate route to licensure. It is recommended that approval of new alternative programs developed at institutions of higher education or modifications to existing approved teacher preparation programs must address shortage-teaching areas only. Institutions of higher education will also be encouraged to focus existing alternative teacher preparation programs on critical shortage areas.
In Virginia, school officials are responsible for employing instructional personnel. Local school boards must be encouraged to explore and implement incentives for teaching in critical shortage area.
Enhancing Statewide Initiatives to Encourage Middle and High School Students to Teach in Critical Shortage Areas
Virginia's Future Educators of America (FEA) Statewide Steering Committee will continue to focus on enhancing the interest of middle school and high school students to teach in critical shortage areas. Strategies to be developed by the steering committee include investigating foundation-funding sources such as the teacher cadet program; sponsoring regional activities and statewide workshops and training sessions; and developing active regional FEA advisory groups. The $2,000 grants provided in 1994-95 by the Department of Education to be used as seed money for regional activities should be continued.
Additionally, the Department of Education has awarded a grant from federal funding to the Virginia Institute for Developmental Disabilities (VIDD) to develop regional teams of special education professionals to promote career awareness among pre-collegiate and entry-level college students. This project titled, "Be Someone Special! Choose a Career in Special Education," will be used by school divisions to promote awareness among middle and high school students of careers teaching students with disabilities.
Reduction of Teaching Endorsements
The "Licensure Regulations for School Personnel" that became effective July 1, 1993, included approximately 66 independent teaching areas. The restructured teacher education programs of 1990 also allow for further areas of endorsement through the approved program approach to licensure. The Board of Education requested the Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensure to study this issue. The Advisory Board, in its annual report, presented a framework to begin a year-long process to develop licensure requirements to reduce the number of teaching areas, thereby significantly eliminating categorical endorsements.
One purpose of the reduction of teaching areas is to streamline the current list of 66 endorsements by combining the categorical requirements into more generic endorsement areas. For example, Virginia offers eight categorical endorsements in special education. Many states offer a generic special education endorsement, allowing more flexibility in employment and a broader scope of collegiate preparation. Reducing endorsements in special education and many of the other teaching areas will have a positive impact on reducing teacher shortages in critical areas and improving staffing in school divisions.