Posted: 27 Nov 2017 01:50 PM PST
Below are the thoughts of three students on the recent teacher shortages both in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
Pennsylvania schools are struggling with trying to keep teachers teaching in public schools. The number of teachers shortages are higher than ever before, and it's not beneficial to the students. Harrisburg is among the top public school districts statewide in teaching shortages according to pennlive.com and washingtonpost.com. Some cities in particular are really struggling. For example, the city of Philadelphia has the greatest amount of teacher shortages, sadly with 255 positions that need to be filled. Parents everywhere are both furious and curious of what their children's futures hold. If there is not enough teachers, they wonder, then how are students going to get the proper education that they need in order to have the right amount of knowledge to use to their advantage.
As much as students would rather to stay at home and play games or be on social media all day, they need the proper education in order to be able to walk on their own to feet in the real world. I interviewed two students to see what their take on the shortage of teachers was. The first one was sophomore Tasaun Harvey. I asked him, "What do you think about the shortages in teachers and will it affect you or anyone around you?" He then said, "No, I think that I have learned all the basic stuff that I need to learn, but for my siblings and if so my future children, they need the education because I won't be able to teach it to them while I'm working."
I asked another sophomore by the name of Amir Crownie, "If you could, would you help the amount of teacher shortages decrease?" He says, "Yes, if I was able to be at a thousand places at once I definitely would be helpful to the youth and future students." The number of teacher shortages is truly horrific and isn't good but I believe that we can turn it around for the future. I'm sure that the districts will get it together and get to the bottom of this problem sooner rather than later by hiring more young teachers fresh out of college.
Silas Maxwell Switzer
Certain school districts in Pennsylvania, such as the Philadelphia City School District, have as many as 225 unfilled teaching positions (pennlive.com). However, Philadelphia is not the only city having teacher shortage problems. This is an issue that is happening statewide and even nationwide.
Teachers that used to be in fine supply, such as math and special education teachers, now seem to be nowhere to be found. Districts are being forced to hire underqualified teachers in order to simply keep adults in their classrooms. One of the many ways that schools are able to do this is by issuing something called an emergency permit. An emergency permit essentially allows anyone who has a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience in the subject to teach it, without any kind of training in education. Even substitutes are in short supply at this point. "Some days we don't have an adult in the classroom at all," says an anonymous student at Obama Academy.
There are many possible reasons as to why there are a lack of qualified teachers. One of these reasons is that many teachers feel that they are being underpaid. Because of this, fewer students are entering into college to be trained in education, especially in Pennsylvania where the standards for teachers are extremely high. Not many students want to go through an extremely intensive educational program only to be paid less than they could for less education in a different profession. Another possible reason that the amount of qualified teachers is decreasing is because of the harsh emphasis on standardized testing in today's schools. Because of this pressure, teachers have less of a willingness to go into the profession. They feel as if they do not get to teach for the sake of learning but instead just to prepare their students for standardized testing. "I don't get through half of the curriculum that I'd like to in a year simply because I have to spend most of my time preparing my students for standardized tests," says an anonymous teacher within the Pittsburgh Public School District. These are some of the many reasons why there are teacher shortages both in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
The teacher shortage issue has only been getting worse over the last ten years. Most signs indicate that it is only going to get worse until our education system changes. Until then, students will be educated in any way possible.
Education majors are disappearing like the lost colony of Roanoke. Teacher numbers are incredibly decreasing in Pennsylvania along with the amount of substitute teachers. The schools are in desperate need of these essential staff members.
According to the article "These Pa. school districts have the greatest teacher shortages" on PennLive, there are at least 20 positions available in every school. These numbers are only getting higher, with the largest number of positions needed to be filled being in Philadelphia with 255. In Pittsburgh, we have 72 positions available for teachers. Based on these statistics, people can infer that the students within these districts are not receiving the education that they need to make it through life. Without an education, these students will not be able to make it into colleges and will be hired to basic jobs such as a cashier or a janitor.
Jacqueline Palochko wrote the article "Pennsylvania state colleges try to stave off teacher shortage as fewer decide to major in education", where she goes into detail about the statistics and reasoning behind this shortage. Her statistics show there has been a 36% decrease in education enrollment in Pennsylvania. That is an alarming drop in students becoming teachers. That is just in the state; nationally, there is a 35% decrease in enrollment.
Due to this decrease in teachers in school districts, the school officials have to lower their standards and turn to emergency permits. These permits allow the schools to hire teachers for one year who would normally be considered unqualified to teach. This means that the students will receive a teacher, but that teacher does not meet the requirements to teach the class. The students will get a lesser education than they would have with a qualified teacher. Jamie Martinez wrote the article "Substitute teacher shortage an ongoing problem for Western Pennsylvania schools" to further inform the public on the effects of this decrease. She stated that in some schools a few teacher absences go unfulfilled. This means that students do not receive even a substitute teacher. Some classes get cancelled and some have to be subbed by other teachers. There have been a few times where I have experienced a class with no teacher or a delayed substitute.
Palochko also stated a few reasons for this shortage in teachers, the first being the decline in education majors. There is obviously a major decrease in students becoming teachers since there are hundreds of positions available in Pennsylvania. The second is that there is a major increase in K-12 enrollment. Some people do not want to teach classes with a huge amount of students. They do not want to be in charge of dozens of kids in multiple classes. The third reason is that there is a surge in teacher requirements. The work needed to become a teacher has become too tough to handle for many people. Students don't want to go through these processes that are too difficult to do. The fourth and final reason is that schools desire low teacher-to-student ratios. She also stated some small reasons: frozen salaries and the emphasis on standardized teaching. Teachers do not want to be blamed if a student fails a test due to their incompetence.
When the schools realized that they need more education majors, they started to offer some deals to the students. In Debra Erdley's article "Fewer college students opt to pursue career as teachers" she states a couple of offers colleges are giving out. She said that some are reducing the tuition fees and some are reducing the certifications to get a teaching certificate. When interviewed, two out of four students at Obama stated they would consider becoming a teacher and the others said they wouldn't. When asked what could a college do to make her become a teacher, Chazzlyn Burke said that it would have to give her a discount on tuition and give her "no room and board plans." Talib Smith said that they would have to guarantee him a good position in order for him to major in education.
The numbers are still decreasing and we still need more teachers. We need to get more students to major in education to ensure that all students get the education they signed up for. If these statistics keep going down, soon enough we won't have enough teachers for the nation. Schools can't just keep using emergency permits.
How can we help with this issue? Become a teacher, tell others of the issue, or tell colleges to lower their standards to become a teacher.
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Mark Rauterkus Mark.Rauterkus@gmail.com
Swimming and Water Polo Coach, Schenley High School, Pittsburgh, PA
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