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Commonwealth's Counties

The Intersection of Teacher Shortage and Equity

The State Board of Education’s Committee on Evidence-Based Policymaking met during the Special Session to discuss trends in teacher quality data, challenges in recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers, and how divisions are incorporating best practices in equity in schools.

Last year, Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Directive 14 to address Virginia’s growing teacher shortage, reaching over 1,000 unfilled positions, by issuing emergency regulations giving colleges and universities the option to offer undergraduate teaching majors. Discussed in a previous County Connections article, Governor Northam signed HB 1125 (Landes)/SB 349 (Peake) during the 2018 session to address teacher shortage through streamlining licensing requirements and codifying the undergraduate teaching major option for colleges and universities. The bills also provided pathways for alternative licensure for the top two critical shortage areas.

The Virginia Department of Education reports that the number of unfilled positions dropped to 935 in the 2017-2018 school year. To view regional data on teacher shortages across the Commonwealth, please click here.

Also included in the report was a snapshot of data from October 2017 revealing that the top three critical shortage teaching endorsement areas across the state were special education, elementary education preK-6, and middle education grades 6-8. The data reviewed the aggregate total number of unfilled teaching positions, positions filled by provisional licensees, and the number of those teaching outside of their academic subject areas. The report also described regional trends regarding the percentage of properly licensed and endorsed teachers, the number of provisionally licensed individuals, and the number of provisional licenses in the critical shortage areas.

Additional data indicated a rise in endorsements added by testing to Virginia teacher licenses, which means that teachers passed Praxis assessments based on experience or areas of study. This past year, the number of endorsements rose from 1,256 to 1,825. Of the total endorsements, 333 were in English as a Second Language (ESL) and 225 were in Algebra I.

The State Board of Education aims to address teacher shortage issues that align with equity goals. Though changes in the Every Student Succeeds Act no longer require the Commonwealth to submit an equity plan, the Board is considering establishing a framework for equity that school divisions may utilize.

Because the classroom demographic is changing, equity is becoming an issue that divisions need to address. Pathways mentioned include re-evaluating the Standards of Quality to fit the needs of the students (ie. funding for non-instructional positions like school counselors) and providing more state support for such positions to meet the wraparound needs of students. The Board also will be evaluating their authority to take action regarding alternative teacher endorsements and testing for special education and other shortage areas, targeting discretionary education resources for equity purposes, and better educating the legislature on issues facing school divisions today.

VACo Contact: Khaki LaRiviere

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