How Short is Florida’s Teacher Shortage?

classroom2On the first day of school, a friend’s grandson walked into his classroom. There was no teacher.  The same thing happened on the second day.  The children were merged in with another group, clearly violating the class size limit.  His teacher was supposed to be bilingual which gives a clue about what is happening with the teacher shortage.

Every year schools face at least some vacancies simply because it is difficult to predict exact numbers of children who will enroll.  With last year’s legislative mandate that parents can choose any school, prediction of the number of teachers needed is more difficult.  To confound the issue even further, many teachers are now retiring.  They enrolled in a five year DROP retirement program and will receive incentives to retire this year.  We also hear that teachers are disgruntled at the direction education reform is moving.  For all of these reasons, the State monitors our teacher workforce to identify shortages.

I looked at partial data.  It appears the K12 student population has not changed much this year.  The projected increase statewide is about 36,000 students out  of 2.8 million.  A Gainesville Sun article reported that there were just over 26,000 students enrolled in Alachua County which is down a little from last year.  Some schools in the district had teacher vacancies, but only a ‘handful’ more than last year at this time.  By the end of the week, things should be back to normal.  It does not sound like a crisis here. What about other districts?  Orange and Hillsborough expect several thousand more students.  We can find teachers, just not always those in specialty areas.

States must report critical shortage areas by discipline and geographic area to the federal government.  For 2015-16, these disciplines had critical shortages:

2015 – 2016  Statewide Academic Disciplines or Subject Matter

  • Exceptional Student Education
  • Hearing Impaired
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Science-Chemistry
  • Visually Impaired

No critical need geographic areas in Florida were identified in the report.

The Florida Department of Education has a report on its website that clarifies the real issue facing the state–appropriate certification.  The Department ranked 2015-16 critical shortage areas by the number of certified teachers needed versus the number of positions available:

  • English  115/478
  • ESE  372/849
  • Reading 107/463
  • Foreign language 18/80
  • ESOL  12/59
  • Science  118/462
  • Math 138 /502

New hires in  2013-14 not appropriately certified included:  overall  by area:  PreK 17%; English 10.99%; Reading 9.05%; ESE 7.5 %; Science 4.3%.

While Florida is not as in dire straits as other states may be, those children sitting in classrooms without teachers need to be served.  The state is expanding online education as one alternative.  The other is to provide more access to teaching through alternative certification.

teacher-403004_1280 (1)The Florida DOE announced the Teachers of Tomorrow program which is the first private, non university program to earn approval.  College graduates with a 2.5 GPA may qualify.  Prospective teachers must pass a general knowledge test and develop a strategy with the company to achieve certification during a novice year of teaching.

Charter schools are very vulnerable to teacher shortages.  Their attrition rate is two or three times higher than in traditional public schools.   Their salaries and benefits tend to be lower than in traditional schools.  Most of their staff teach out-of-field.

On first glance, it seems that Florida has more than enough qualified people who could teach but choose not to.  The solution is obvious but more expensive than the state is willing to support.  Florida teacher salaries was ranked 45th by the National Education Association in 2012-13.  Critics argue that is does not cost as much to live in Florida as in other states.  While there may be some truth to that assertion, talented potential teachers are not buying it.  They have other choices.







Teacher Bonuses Challenge Under Review

justiceFlorida’s Best and Brightest teacher bonus program is under review by a federal agency.  The Florida Education Association filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last December.  In the complaint, the FEA argued that the program discriminated against teachers whose ACT or SAT tests, on which the bonuses are based, are unfairly excluded.  Teachers who sat the SAT or ACT before 1973 have no qualified scores.  These teachers are referred to DOE guidelines which seem to be strangely absent on the FDOE website.  According to the Naples News article today, a decision by the EEOC has not been reached, but the complaint is still under review.  If the EEOC finds reason to proceed with the complaint, the FEA will file a lawsuit.


It is Time to Talk about ESSA

child speakingThere is the law, and then there are the regulations to implement the law.  Some say the new federal Department of Education proposed regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) overstep the intention of the law.  They create more stringent rules about testing and accountability than the ESSA intended.  The Florida Department of Education has put out a call for your input about the regulations. You have until July 22, 2016 to respond.  Responding in a meaningful way takes some thought.



Continue reading

VAM Scores Eliminated in Some States

teacher-23304_1280Performance evaluation are a tricky business.   Arbitrary data systems based on student test scores turn excellent teachers into mediocre ones and vice versa.  Individual judgments can also be wrong, but systems that have multiple components can be reasonably fair.

Some states are dropping student achievement gain scores and are returning to human judgment systems for teacher evaluations.  Which are these forward thinking states?





Continue reading

Are Florida’s teachers leaving in droves?

teacher-403004_1280 (1)In an Orlando Sentinel article, Scott Maxwell cites alarming state records.  Forty percent of Florida’s new teachers leave within five years.  This rate is 15 to 20% higher than the national average, he reported.  I found a U.F. report about charter school teacher attrition.  Something is going wrong.  We know that.  Will the legislature listen?







Continue reading

Teachers vote with their feet

teacher-403004_1280 (1)Does eliminating tenure makes any difference in the quality of the teacher workforce (as judged by achievement test score gains)?  The Brookings Institute published an article that sheds some light on the impact prior to 2011.  By comparing the departure rate of teachers with lower gain scores to those with higher gain scores, one would expect more lower rated teachers to leave.





Continue reading

Attacking Tenure: Why?

teacher-403004_1280 (1)

What are these anti tenure cases really about?  Are reformers convinced the workforce has more than its share of ineffective teachers?   Or, are they concerned many teachers prefer to work in traditional schools where they can earn higher salaries and benefits?  Thus, charters and private schools struggle to compete for high quality teachers.

There is a general anti union undercurrent, but I am continually surprised how few Floridians seem to know that tenure in Florida is a thing of the past.  Why are other states filing law suits?

Continue reading

Will Pinellas Failure Factories Turn Around?

FAILED1Pinellas is taking on its failing schools.  This blog reported on the Tampa Bay Times series on south Pinellas schools that had essentially been abandoned when federal desegregation regulations were lifted in 2007.  I remember Judge Reynolds’ statement a week ago in the Citizens for Strong Schools case.  He said he could not believe that the Florida DOE had not intervened when schools received an ‘F’ grade four years in a row.



Continue reading