Teacher shortage puts non-certified teachers in the classroom, temporarily.

A recent letter to central administration for Cassia schools questioned the reasons for the increased numbers of non-certificated teachers in schools. Filling certified teacher positions, in recent years, has been a challenge in Idaho and the challenges are even greater in the Magic Valley. It’s no longer just random stories of unfilled teacher positions days before school starts. Students and patrons, locally, are now feeling the impact of a diminishing teacher pipeline.

Without exception, teachers have the greatest impact on student learning and achievement. There isn’t a school district in the state that won’t do everything they can to recruit and retain quality teachers. There are two major problems with filling vacant teacher positions outside of salary discussions.

There are less new teacher candidates entering colleges of education than previous years and the distribution of teachers, once they have a certificate, doesn’t move too much beyond the Treasure Valley. The second reason may impact our region more than the first. State data shows that teacher graduates aren’t filtering to rural areas. In a state that’s 70% rural this is a problem. Even in Cassia, finding certified teachers to fill positions in Albion, Malta, Almo and Oakley is harder than other places in the district. This year, two schools in Burley had unfilled teacher positions only days before their start.

The state has provided avenues that allow districts to hire non-certified individuals to teach prior to finishing their certificate. The goal is always the certificate. Teachers hold a professional license that certify them as possessing proper subject knowledge and training to instruct students.

Increasingly, we are hiring teachers that come from non-traditional paths. There are variety of reasons why individuals choose education. Some have industry experience and look to teaching as a second career. Some weren’t able to finish their college degrees after high school and others have found a passion for education working in schools as para educators. Regardless of the reasons, schools are welcoming and supporting those who would like to be in a classroom.

Teachers who are working toward their teaching certificate can work in a classroom while they are finishing their schooling. The state allows three years to do that. During that time, districts provide mentors to support new teachers. A teacher must be showing progress towards their completion, too. The school board must approve the individual and they are monitored administration. It’s everyone’s interest to make a new to teaching teacher successful.

Alternate paths to certification have been expanded in the last few years to mitigate teacher demands. In spite of this, region four feels the shortage. Currently, Cassia’s most impacted classroom has an inexperienced, non-certificated long term sub three days a week, trading with another sub two days a week. There are no applicants and no one in the pipeline.

The preference is always to hire teachers who hold a current certificate. We also like to hire people that are working in our schools and want a certificate. We also like to hire people that have skills and qualities that would make them successful in classrooms. In any case, we are in a perpetual state of hiring within the school district whether it’s teachers, aides, bus drivers, custodians, etc. On a note about hiring, there is equal scrutiny placed on ensuring new teachers are a fit for the profession. Within that three-year period of time, districts have the ability to remove teachers should there be documented evidence showing unworkable deficiencies.

All of what we do in education is intended to support student achievement: buildings, curriculum, supplies, technology, activities and instruction. First and foremost is a quality, trained teacher.

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