Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Colo. among states not producing enough teachers, exacerbating chronic problem in rural areas

In an example of a national problem, Colorado is not producing enough teachers to fill its vacancies, and the teachers the state does produce are not taking jobs in rural areas, which is leading to a teacher shortage crisis, said Robert Mitchell, of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

For example, Mitchell told Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio, Genoa-Hugo Elementary School, about an hour east of Denver, had no applicants for its sole teaching opening last year, though the state graduated 1,000 teachers with elementary education credentials last year.

Rural schools have long had trouble attracting teachers because of lower salaries and isolation, and that problem seems likely to get worse in Colorado. Mitchell said so far this year, "enrollments in the state's teacher prep schools are down 23 percent compared with five years ago." Nationally, the drop was 30 percent from 2008-09 to 2012-13, Lori Higgins reports for the Detroit Free Press. In Michigan enrollment declined by 38 percent during that time.

Recruitment and retention administrator Amy Spruce told Brundin, “The sheer number of teachers that we need aren’t available so we’ve started going out of state to recruit where there’s a surplus of teachers." (Colorado Public Radio graphic)
Colorado is struggling to interest college students in pursuing careers in education, Brundin writes.  "Research nationally points to several reasons for the shortage: school conditions, lack of respect, student misbehavior, teachers being scapegoated for society’s ills, higher-paying jobs elsewhere, high college costs forcing students to major in fields that will help them pay back loans more easily. New testing and new teacher evaluations have added to the pressures of the job." Denille LePlatt of the Primero district near the New Mexico border, said negative media has also hampered recruiting.

Don Anderson, director of the East Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services, blames the political landscape, Brundin writes. He told her, "It is extremely difficult to be teacher right now in our state in my mind. In the last five to six years, we’ve had several mandates that were truly unfunded, went through a recession, put more on people’s plates and didn’t take anything off. And so that political landscape has caused people to ask, 'Do I really want to be a teacher?'" (Read more)

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