WA teacher shortage remains rampant heading into upcoming school year

Aug 14, 2023, 3:07 PM

washington teacher shortage...

A teacher interacts with students virtually while sitting in an empty classroom during a period of Non-Traditional Instruction on January 11, 2022. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Washington ranks twelfth in the nation, the bottom 25%, among states with the highest teacher shortage.

The ranking comes from Scholaroo, an education research firm, which examines the number of teachers in the workforce per 1,000 enrolled students.

Scholaroo released the second edition of its “Teacher Shortage in the U.S. 2023” report, which examines the latest available data on teachers in public schools in each state compared to student enrollment figures in that state’s public schools.

“It’s really hard being a teacher right now, and an educator in general,” Sarah Taylor, a special education teacher at Jane Addams Middle School, told KIRO Newsradio. “We have a lot of students and not a lot of resources. We also have a lot of positions to hire and not a lot of people applying … we also are facing a lot of budget cuts, so we’re facing doing more with less.”

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According to a report from the Calder Policymakers Council in 2022, 1.6% more teachers chose to switch careers last year compared to 2021, leading to an approximate loss of 1,000 teachers. 2022 reached a 37-year high in teachers leaving the profession within Washington state.

“We need to find a way to treat educators better and to make it a better system,” Taylor told KIRO Newsradio.

Washington’s biggest shortcoming in education, according to Scholaroo, is teachers in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) field — something 27 other states in the nation are suffering from the most as well.

Using research from Nguyen, Lam, & Bruno’s 2022 study on the shortage of CTE teachers nationwide, J. Cameron Anglum, Andrew R. Diemer, Walter G. Ecton, and Tuan D. Nguyen wrote a comprehensive examination of national teacher shortages in 2022 for Kappan, finding there are at least 36,500 vacant CTE teaching positions, and at least 163,000 positions are held by underqualified teachers (i.e., teachers lacking a standard certification or teaching in an out-of-subject area).

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“It’s possible that some historically disenfranchised students lack access to promising career pathways because their local district or community college system is not able to locate and hire someone to teach them,” J. Cameron Anglum, Andrew R. Diemer, Walter G. Ecton, and Tuan D. Nguyen wrote. “Future research must determine how many CTE teacher vacancies exist, how they are distributed geographically, and whether traditionally disadvantaged schools (high-poverty or minoritized schools, for example) are more likely to experience CTE vacancies.”

Additionally, 55% of vocational teachers reported a serious problem with the placement of problem students into vocational education programs, according to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics. Almost half of vocational teachers indicated that student motivation (49%) and maintaining vocational enrollments (47%) were also serious problems.

Chronic absenteeism — when a student misses 10% of class days in a given school year — is one of the primary goals the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions is attempting to address within the state. In 2017, years before the pandemic approximately doubled the rate of chronic absenteeism, nearly 17% of students in Washington were already chronically absent from class — the second-worst rate in the country.

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“Chronic absenteeism impacts all students — no matter their age,” the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions wrote in a public address. “Students that miss just two days a month for any reason are more likely to not read at grade level, and more likely to not graduate.”

Nevada was ranked the state with the highest teacher shortage, followed by Utah, Arizona, California, Florida, Alaska, Idaho, Ohio, Oregon, and Alabama. Michigan, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Indiana joined Washington just outside the top 10 to round out the top 15.

Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, New York, and Missouri have the five highest rates of teachers per 100 students, according to Scholaroo.

On June 9, 2022, right before the 2022-23 school year, Washington passed HB 1834, allowing students to be excused from class specifically to take care of their mental health. Washington passed this bill in order to motivate students to keep maintaining their attendance while also providing ways to deal with decade-long rising rates of depression and anxiety among those under the age of 18.

But Taylor, among many other teachers in the region, is now asking for more support for teachers from the educational system, preferably in the form of staffing and classroom resources.

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) first day of classes is September 6.


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WA teacher shortage remains rampant heading into upcoming school year