At the final meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Education, lawmakers, educators, and stakeholders met to discuss how to attract and retain students pursuing education training and tackle Indiana’s apparent teacher shortage. According to a recent study by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs has dropped by 50 percent between 2009 and 2013.
Testimony during Monday’s eight-hour committee included Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and other state and industry leaders. Some outcry was expressed from teachers who traveled to the Statehouse to testify when they found they would not be permitted to contribute until well into the evening. Educators that did speak noted that the committee lost valuable insight from every-day professionals who have experienced the impact of reform efforts enacted by the legislature and how those reforms have effected classrooms.
Blue Ribbon Commission and Teacher Shortage
In order to address Indiana’s teacher shortage, members heard recommendations from the IDOE’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Educators. The commission is comprised of 49 members – educators, key stakeholders and legislators – and is tasked with developing strategies and to help recruit and retain quality educators in Hoosier schools.
Retention, Compensation and Completion: by the numbers
The presentation by IDOE cited areas of teacher shortage in areas including Exceptional Needs, Business Education, Math, English, and Science and highlighted the impact poverty has retention rates of educators.
In 2011, educators in schools with low Free and Reduced Lunch enrollment were seven percent more likely to be retained than those in schools with children experiencing higher levels of poverty. While retention rates have dropped overall since 2011, turnover in high poverty schools – where teacher consistency is a key part of success – has fallen faster. Retention rates at schools with a high Free and Reduced Lunch population fell by 15 percent between 2011 and 2013, compared with only a seven percent decline in lower poverty schools.
When it comes to pay, Hoosier teachers are currently facing salaries that lag behind the national average. For example, the national median elementary classroom teacher salary in 2014 was $54,120 while Hoosier elementary school teachers saw a median salary of $49,310. Put another way, Indiana teachers earns about 91 cents for every dollar an average teacher in the United States makes.
Additionally, the number of students enrolling in and completing teacher preparation programs continues to decline. According to the United States Department of Education, in 2009 nearly 20,000 Indiana students pursued teacher preparation courses. In 2013, that number decreased to 8,991 students looking to complete a degree in education.
The complete findings and recommendations of the commission will be presented at their last meeting on December 7. Preliminary recommendations released by the commission are set to include legislation to address:
- Compensation, Career Options/Ladder and Leadership Opportunities, Recognize/Support Ongoing Learning
- Positive Press
- Streamline, Pare Down, and Clarify Role of Standardized Tests; Revise Teacher Evaluations
- Recruit a Diverse Workforce; Offset Preparation Costs
- Clinical Experiences for Teacher Candidates
- Revise Professional Development
More on the Blue Ribbon Commission, including presentations given to the committee can be found here.