Florida teacher shortage labeled “critical”
Written by John Charles Robbins on April 12, 2016
The ranks of new teachers in Florida continue to grow, but state education authorities say there continues to be a teacher shortage, and the word “critical” remains a qualifier.
State law requires the State Board of Education to annually identify critical teacher shortage areas based on the recommendations of the Commissioner of Education. This list of shortage areas is used to identify high-need content areas.
According to the latest report from the state education department, critical teacher shortage areas for the 2015-16 school year include English, exceptional student education, reading, foreign language, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), science and mathematics.
These shortage areas represent certification types where substantial proportions of teachers are being hired to teach courses without the appropriate certification, where significant vacancies exist, or where post-secondary institutions don’t produce enough graduates to meet the needs, state officials said. This information can be used to determine the current and projected needs of classroom teachers for specific subject areas.
Locally, there continues to be a special need for exceptional student education teachers for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Currently, the Miami-Dade County district employs 19,653 instructional personnel, according to Ana M. Rasco, assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Capital Management.
A year-to-year comparison is conducted when the school year closes. In October 2014, instructional personnel numbered 20,619.
“As the fourth largest school district in the country, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has fluid instructional openings and recruits year round. Currently, as in other school districts across the nation, an area of need is in exceptional student education,” said Ms. Rasco.
In Florida, children with disabilities who need specially designed instruction and related services are called exceptional students. The special help they are given at school is called exceptional student education (ESE). The purpose of ESE is to help each child with a disability progress in school and prepare for life after school.
ESE services include specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of the child. The services may also include technology devices, therapy, special transportation or other supports.
A team of people makes decisions about the child’s needs and ESE services, and the child’s parents are part of this team. This process is based on the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
“Highly Qualified Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Teachers Wanted,” reads a heading on the Miami-Dade district’s website listing teacher job openings.
The Instructional Recruitment and Staffing Office is maintaining a database of highly qualified Exceptional Student Education Teachers (K-12).
This database will be used to keep eligible applicants up to date on current and anticipated vacancies district-wide.
“If you are a highly qualified ESE teacher seeking employment, we want to hear from you,” says the posting.
There are immediate openings for part-time audiologists to provide services to students in school settings as part of the Division of Exceptional Student Education.
The Miami-Dade district is also is in the midst of a targeted recruitment campaign aimed at attracting individuals with a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) background for a highly selective summer program, the TEACh Strong Summer Academy. This summer immersion program will prepare participants to become STEM teachers.
According to federal regulations, a teacher shortage area means an area of specific grade, subject matter or discipline classification, or a geographic area in which the US Secretary of Education determines that there is an inadequate supply of elementary or secondary school teachers.
Districts prefer to hire appropriately certified teachers when possible. “However, specialized subject area knowledge is critical for some content areas that results in a greater risk that children will not be taught the standards at the level or rigor required if the teacher they have is not certified,” according to the state.
Most of the recommended critical teacher shortage areas for 2015-16 are among those with the highest projected vacancies and the highest number of current vacancies for 2014-15.
Low performing and low-economic urban schools have a higher proportion of courses taught by teachers without the appropriate certification. Schools receiving a grade of “F” experience the largest proportion of out-of-field teachers.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools had more than 30 “Low Performing” schools in the latest state report. There are 466 schools in the county’s system.
In general, a larger percentage of teachers are teaching out-of-field in the high priority school locations compared to the statewide total of teachers teaching out-of-field.
For example, 4.3% of teachers are teaching out-of-field across the state, 7.6% in F Schools and 5.6% in Urban/Low-Economic Schools. Rural/Low-Economic Schools (5.5%) and D Schools (7.3%) also have a higher percentage of teachers teaching out-of-field compared to the statewide total (4.3%).
Low-economic schools are those that have 75% or more students who receive free or reduced lunch.
State statistics show that among the 194,733 teachers in 3,211 schools statewide, 186,395, or 95.7%, are teaching “in-field,” and 8,338, or 4.3%, are teaching “out-of field.”
One year ago, there were 194,030 teachers statewide and 183,445, or 94.5%, were teaching “in-field.”