Monday, August 21, 2000

Schools scramble to find teachers


Emergency certifications fill shortages

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the weeks approaching today's opening of Campbell County Schools, Linda Alford was looking for teachers.

        The large white board in her office was shining with green, black, purple and red markers. The color coding represented schools and staff vacancies in those buildings.

        Three blanks were in special education.

        “I'm pulling my hair out,” said Ms. Alford, the Campbell County Schools assistant superintendent of personnel. “There's a grave shortage in special education, math, science (teachers) and with counselors. They're just not out there.”

        Before the bell rings this morning, she'll have the teachers she needs to launch the school year, thanks to hard work, good luck and emergency state certification.

        Even so, students there join hundreds across the Tristate who will be taught by teachers working outside their specialties on emergency certification or en route to being certified.

        The problem is nationwide. Given the profession's demographics as well as competition from the private sector, relief is not in sight.

        “The shortage will get worse,” said Marilyn Braatz, public relations manager for the Ohio Department of Education's Center for the Teaching Profession.

        It's a combination of factors:

        • Jobs in the business world often pay more.

        • Burnout in areas such as special education is high.

        • More than a third of the nation's active teachers are between ages 45 and 55 and many will retire within the next eight years.

        • The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 2 million new teachers will be needed by 2006 to offset increasing enrollment, retirements and decreasing classroom size.

        As schools open, many districts in Kentucky are relying on emergency teaching certificates to fill their needs; Ohio districts are depending on full-time temporary licenses.

        Coincidentally, applications and resumes are plentiful. Ms. Alford pointed to about 400 stacked on a rolling cart next to her desk, saying, “Many of 

        those people aren't going to find jobs.”

        They want jobs in fields where there are lots of applicants, such as elementary education.

        But the schools are making do.

        Just before the start of the academic year, Campbell County Schools hired about six emergency certified teachers. Covington Independent Schools has hired 17.

        Emergency certificates are granted to teachers who earned a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.5 grade point average in one field of study but who are willing to teach for a year in an area of need, such as math or science.

        Last year, Kentucky had 937 emergency certifications. There were 503 in the 1998-99 school year and 286 during the 1997-98 school year.

        Ohio had 3,870 full-time temporary licenses last year. There were 3,253 in the 1998-99 school year and 2,602 the year before.

        Kentucky emergency certificates are a good temporary fix, Ms. Alford said, but students should have certified teachers who have degrees in the areas they teach.

Battling Wall Street

               It's a competition between schools and industry.

        “When the economy's good, folks with education degrees flock to businesses,” said Jack Moreland, Covington's interim superintendent. On average, teachers make $7,000 less a year than other degree-holders in their first jobs, Ms. Braatz said.

        Teri Brown, Scott High School principal in Kenton County, recently lost a math teacher to an investment firm, and Traci McGuire, a speech and language pathologist at Covington's Ninth District Elementary School, knows what others in her profession make.

        Classmates with the same license made around $40,000 right out of college working for hospitals. She earned $23,000, she said. With five years experience and a master's degree, she will now earn $35,000.

        Even so, Ms. McGuire plans to stay. She loves working with the kids.

Tough subjects
               It's not just the money.

        Dr. Marjorie Artzer, director of teacher education at Northern Kentucky University, said math and science are perceived as harder to teach than English or social studies.

        Special education can be especially challenging and requires a lot of state and federal paperwork.

        “It just wears you out,” Campbell County's Ms. Alford said.

        Turnover rate among special ed teachers is about 10 percent higher than in traditional teaching fields, Ms. Braatz said. “Many teachers after teaching three to four years in special education will search for another position in another post in a regular education field.”

What can be done?
               Higher salaries, creative teacher recruitment and streamlined certification would help, administrators say.

        Campbell County Schools tried that this year, raising salaries 5 percent, Ms. Alford said.

        Nationally, the Department of Defense developed the “Troops to Teachers” program for veterans affect ed by military cuts, and in Kentucky, servicemen and women can qualify for an alternative certification if they have a bachelor's degree in the subject.

        The state offers a similar certification for people with exceptional work experience who want to teach.

        This year, Ohio approved a two-year alternative educator license for those who have a bachelor's degree, and Kentucky lawmakers are supporting fast-track programs to move people (who already have college degrees) through the certification process while in college. "We are really bending over backward to get good people in,” said Susan Leib, executive director of Kentucky's Education Professional Standards Board.

New 3Rs: Recruiting, retention and retraining



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