Archive for Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Teacher shortage an issue in state

August 13, 2008

As the new school year approaches, many school districts across Kansas are struggling to fill all of the teaching vacancies they currently have.

And the outlook is not looking much better. According to the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE), an estimated 33 percent of Kansas teachers - more than 12,000 of the state's 37,000 classroom instructors - are eligible to retire in the next five years. Teacher retention is also negatively impacted each year by other classroom instructors choosing to leave the profession for reasons other than retirement. To avoid a true education crisis, serious and creative efforts, including online teacher certification and degree completion programs and programs to draw professionals from other fields into teaching, must be implemented and more widely used.

Some innovative and convenient solutions have been implemented to address teacher shortages and streamline the education process for potential new teachers.

Kansas University's UKan Teach program, ukanteach.ku.edu, allows students majoring in math or select areas of science at KU to earn a secondary school teacher certification without going through the School of Education. Wichita State University's Transition to Teaching program, webs.wichita.edu, helps address teacher shortages by allowing people with non-education degrees to begin classroom teaching on a restricted teaching license until they achieve full licensure, usually in about two years. Most of these new classroom instructors are employed in the high-demand areas of math, science and English. Sterling College, a private four-year college in Sterling, Kan., offers its Teacher Education Online (TEO) program, online.sterling.edu, which allows students with 60 hours of existing college credit to complete a bachelor's degree in elementary education almost exclusively online from any location. The school's Professional Studies track within TEO provides skilled professionals in the workforce a streamlined path to secondary teaching licensure, making a career change to teaching simple and convenient.

Gov. Sebelius has identified teacher shortages and departures as a major impediment to future growth in our state. To avoid this classroom crisis, I urge everyone in the education field - including colleges and universities, elected officials, local school administrators and teacher's associations - to work together and come up with creative solutions to ensure our children have the best classroom experience as possible. Having classrooms fully staffed with quality teachers is the only way Kansas can be viewed an education leader going forward.

- Ken Brown is vice president of innovation and technology at Sterling College in Sterling.

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