I hope everyone is heading into the new year having enjoyed a wonderful holiday break. As I write this post, I am listening to an NPR report on the teacher shortage that the country is facing today. I would recommend you take a listen to the report:
This shortage is not just a national or statewide concern, it is major issue in west central Illinois. As many of you are aware, at VIT we have been unable to find a qualified science teacher for our high school - we are not the only district in this area facing this issue. Additionally, we recently had to find a replacement for our Spanish teacher. Our previous Spanish teacher has been given an outstanding opportunity to take on leadership duties in an area ELL program. I support her move and wish her the best.
Many students and parents were worried that we would be forced to use a virtual Spanish program. While, this option would not be ideal, it is the path that many districts in this part of the state are using or exploring. We were able to find a qualified candidate who was willing to work ½ days. This will impact access to other classes as some students will be forced to change their schedules to fit into a morning Spanish class.
When we examine the science program, there are benefits and negatives associated with the use of an online science curriculum. Students have mixed feelings, parents have mixed feelings, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, the content is rigorous and available whenever the student wants to access it. On the other, there is no "teacher" to ask questions of. For some students this is real hang-up. For others, there are other avenues to find answers to their questions...fellow students, Google, science textbooks, etc.. An additional concern is that some students are falling behind on their target progress. The science program requires more than just 45 minutes per day to stay on target. When people think of homework they think paper and pencil assignments, this program requires some students to work on science after school - like a true high school science course would as well. Students have every opportunity to stay after school and work on our devices and wifi. Also, students can take Chromebooks home to use if they have wifi at home. We have extended the semester through the Christmas break in order to allow students to complete the semester course. When our students go to college, they will experience the concept of online coursework. The science program is a precursor to their experience with higher education online coursework.
I do want to impress upon our community that we are doing all we can to recruit a quality science teacher: Job search websites, networking, reaching out to area universities etc..
Two of the biggest factors we are facing are 1) we are in competition with higher paying parts of the state and 2) teachers of science, math, foreign language and other content areas are in limited supply. We have so many staff members who love this district and have been here a very long time. We have several former students who teacher here - and that is an amazing fact. The goal is to get a QUALITY candidate to the interview and share the positive attributes of our school.
Finally, teaching in general has become a less attractive job for young people and their parents (who often help pay for college). http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/03/30/teacher-prep-enrollment-continues-to-decline.html
The new pension requirements, retirement age, the high cost of a bachelor's degree vs. the starting salaries for many districts, the increased academic requirements for young people to become teachers, and the negative view that some parents, social media bullies, legislators, and shock media outlets put teachers under are all reasons why we and the rest of the nation will be looking for teachers for a long time to come.
While, this post may not be a light-hearted read, it is a fact we must all realize exists in our district, around the state, and throughout the nation as a whole.
In order to end on a positive note, I offer this:
We have an outstanding staff who care deeply about our students. These people work hard everyday to provide an effective, caring, and supportive learning environment for the students of our community.
Enjoy the break,