In a few short weeks, districts throughout St. Louis will welcome the start of another school year. There will be the excitement of new and returning students, families and staff. Yet, there are also real concerns about having enough qualified teachers in classrooms.
As an education leader, it’s concerning to observe the current shortage of teachers, and the growing need to hire talented educators in many urban schools. For example:
- There are critical teacher shortages in special education, gifted education, math and science. These are areas that can pose challenges for schools to meet the needs of every child.
- Teacher certification areas are facing an unmet need of teachers as some colleges of education are experiencing enrollment shortages for potential teachers.
- Less than two percent of the national teacher workforce is comprised of African American men. Yet, public schools are more than 50 percent African American. In 2014-2015, for the first time, non-white students represented a majority of children in American public schools.
- A report by the National Education Association, “Time for a Change: Diversity in Teaching Revisited,” found that the disparity between minority student enrollment and teachers of color continues to be a stumbling block toward greater academic performance for all students.
The overall challenge – and problem – of a teacher shortage is becoming more prevalent.
However, we, as the community, have a role in the solution. I urge all who have an interest in education and in giving back to our youth learn ways you can impact classrooms in local schools. There are teacher certification programs designed to be an alternative to a traditional four-year degree to support individuals who want to work in education. You can become a tutor, a mentor or a volunteer at a school.
As the chief executive officer of Confluence Charter Schools, it’s been my honor to meet the talented and dedicated teachers, staff and administrators who serve on behalf of our 3,200 students. We all agree that results matter; and we’re eager for continuous improvement as we move toward our mission and vision of academic excellence.
At Confluence, we’re exploring different ways to reach potential teachers, such as part-time and full-time opportunities, particularly for those who are retired educators who still want to work. Similar options are being explored in other local school systems.
Looking toward the future of our schools and the success of our students, Confluence Charter Schools has clear academic plans for 2017-2018 such as project-based learning and small group instruction, improving the transitions from elementary, middle and high school; social-emotional curriculum, a continued focus on trauma-informed training for teachers and staff, restorative justice to reduce discipline and suspensions and more professional development for teachers.
As citizens in St. Louis, and as people who support public education, we have to be committed to excellence for every child. Let’s collectively address teacher shortages and diversity in education by getting involved in the public schools in our neighborhoods to make a positive impact for all students.
In support of children,
Candice Carter-Oliver, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer