Our Teachers Have Suffered

The Teacher Shortage – Low salaries are a factor, but what else?

As you may have noticed, the teacher shortage in our state isn’t going away anytime soon. The “study” initiated by our legislature this last session (House Bill 17-1003) has had the CDE touring the state in Town Halls and they commissioned an online survey to gain as much input from anyone who cared to provide it.

In response to the results from the survey and town halls held thus far, the state’s education commissioner, Katy Anthes, and Kim Hunter Reed, the executive director of the department of higher education announced their plan to help address the issue which included: increasing compensation, improving preparation and training, and “lifting the profession.”

Many districts have and continue to make teacher compensation a budget priority, although finding the funding calls for difficult decisions forcing cuts to programs or go to the voters in local mill levy overrides. This truly is a no-win situation for school districts until funding for public education in Colorado takes a different turn. We need to make the decision statewide we want to invest in education and not just pay for it. This is an on-going conversation we will revisit many times over the next months and year because it’s not going away anytime soon.

  1. How did we get to a place where the teacher shortage is literally considered at a crisis level?

As with everything else in public education, the teacher shortage we are experiencing today goes well beyond the surface. It didn’t happen overnight or without some drivers taking it there – political drivers.

In Colorado and nationally, the various “reformers” (groups and individuals) can take a lot of the credit for doing the damage, resulting in the current teacher shortage.  And, they aren’t done yet.  The teacher shortage is just one step to where they intend to take public education (or what’s left of it.)  

This was part of a strategy predicted by Project Censored.Org – October 10, 2012:

“Public education is the target of a well-coordinated, well-funded campaign to privatize as many schools as possible, particularly in cities. This campaign claims it wants great teachers in every classroom, but its rhetoric demoralizes teachers, reduces the status of the education profession, and champions standardized tests that perpetuate social inequality. The driving logic for such reform is profits.” http://projectcensored.org/13-education-reform-a-trojan-horse-for-privatization/

  1. Ulterior Motives?

The teacher shortage gives the “reformers” a perfect opening to suggest part of the problem is requiring teachers be certified/licensed. 

In our article http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/privatization/, we cited a recent publication (covered by Chalkbeat) that suggests charters are already too restricted and advocates for loosening the restrictions such as teacher certification. “…recommendations include expanding the number and type of charter authorizers, ensuring charters are not bound by teacher certification rules, and reducing charter school regulations.” 

It’s been a convenient opening for their argument.

Bob Schaffer wrote in the Coloradoan (May 2017) advocating for the elimination of teacher licensure. http://www.coloradoan.com/story/opinion/2017/05/11/opinion-time-liberate-teachers/315158001/  (In case you’ve forgotten, Bob Schaffer is on the Board of Directors of the Colorado League of Charter Schools as well as principal at Liberty Common, a charter high school and junior high school in Fort Collins.  As Rep for Co. District 4, Schaffer voted to support vouchers for private & parochial schools.)

http://www.ontheissues.org/House/Bob_Schaffer_Education.htm

And, of course, there’s the recent comment by Colorado State Board of Ed member Steve Durham, when he announced in a public meeting “we use to have a saying around the legislature, licensure is for dogs…”

In that one statement, Durham (who has made no secret of his “reform” agenda in the past) managed to insult a long list of professionals – not just teachers which is where the comment was directed – lawyers, doctors, dentists, CPAs, realtors, cosmetologists, along with many more professionals; as well as demonstrate his ignorance about how the system works and what our citizens want and expect.

What parent doesn’t want and expect a qualified, well trained teacher in the classroom with their child?   What taxpayer wouldn’t want their tax dollars paying for qualified and well trained professionals in their public schools?

We believe teacher certification will be a big issue in the upcoming 2018 legislative session.

  1. Certification is important

CU, CSU, and other higher education institutions in the state are engaging, and emphasizing programs they already have in place to attract students interested in pursuing a degree/certification to become an educator.

According to Heidi Frederiksen, co-chair of CEP (CSU’s Center for Educator Preparation), “Successful teachers are well-educated and prepared – they don’t just come in with content knowledge,”

https://source.colostate.edu/center-educator-preparation-working-address-teacher-shortage/

If you question the value of an accredited educator, we invite you to check out the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation -CAEP website. http://caepnet.org

The CAEP lists 5 standards:

Standard 1. Content and Pedagogical Knowledge

Standard 2. Clinical Partnerships and Practice

Standard 3. Candidate Quality, Recruitment, and Selectivity

Standard 4. Program Impact

Standard 5. Provider Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement

“Standards serve as the basis for any accreditor’s review.

“The CAEP Standards and their components flow from two principles:

  • Solid evidence that the provider’s graduates are competent and caring educators, and
  • There must be solid evidence that the provider’s educator staff have the capacity to create a culture of evidence and use it to maintain and enhance the quality of the professional programs they offer.

The five CAEP Standards flow from these principles and the standards of evidence that define them are the backbone of the accreditation process. They define quality in terms of organizational performance and serve as the basis for accreditation reviews and judgments.

“The CAEP Standards reflect the voice of the education field – on what makes a quality educator.”

  1. The Challenge of Retaining Teachers

When we talk about the teacher shortage, we can’t forget retaining good teachers is as much a part of the problem as not having enough teachers going into the profession in the first place. “Department of Higher Education reports…nearly 25 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first four years, and more teachers are preparing to retire.”

Why are teachers leaving the profession before retirement age?

It should be pretty obvious – who wants to work two jobs to be able to afford a home and support a family? But it’s about more than money.

In this op-ed in the Huffington Post, Patrick Kearney writes:“…the data tells us that retaining teachers is actually about how well supported teachers feel in their classrooms…”

“Teachers are feeling less empowered as class sizes increase and responsibilities increase.”

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_596b7e10e4b06a2c8edb474c/amp?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

This California school district found big success by offering greater support for their teachers and including them in planning and decisions of what happens in the schools. “The Long Beach district’s stellar support of its teaching staff is reflected in its low teacher attrition rate of 7 percent…”

“District leaders value what teachers do, and they put in place structural supports that make it more likely the talents of teachers come out…”

http://progressive.org/magazine/a-southern-california-district-resists-bad-education-policy/

No doubt, the teacher shortage is about low salaries, but there are other factors that have contributed to this dilemma. It’s going to take a shift in culture where our society learns to value the profession along with public education, itself. Because teachers are automatically associated with public education (even though private schools need good teachers, too), and because public education has been the focus of so much reform, our teachers have suffered.

In the January of 2017 article by Ann Schimke (Chalkbeat – Teacher by day, waitress by night: Colorado teachers work second jobs to make ends meet), Schimke cites a statistic worth repeating: 16 percent of teachers nationally take on second jobs outside the schools.

It’s disgraceful. Even worse, in Colorado that number increases to 22%.

https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2017/01/20/teacher-by-day-waitress-by-night-colorado-teachers-work-second-jobs-to-make-ends-meet/