WSAZ Investigates | New data shows increase in W.Va. certified teacher shortage
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - New numbers show the shortage of certified teachers is growing in West Virginia.
What stood at 600 classrooms with a non-certified teacher in 2015 reached nearly 1,200 last year, and now that number stands at 1,544 for this school year.
Education officials generally describe a non-certified teacher as someone who is teaching outside of their expertise or a long-term substitute.
Numbers released this weekend show the problem is getting worse across the board.
The biggest gap is high school, including vocational education, and special needs across all grade levels. Those categories tied with each coming up nearly 430 certified educators short.
Elementary school -- including kindergarten and Pre-K -- are now short more than 300 certified teachers, all of that according to data compiled in October and just released this weekend.
WSAZ NewsChannel 3 went to Carla Warren, director of the state Education Department’s Office of Teaching and Learning Educator Development and Support.
“When you look over your numbers from this year, compared to last year and years prior, how concerned are you?” asked NewsChannel 3 Investigative Reporter Curtis Johnson.
“We are very concerned,” Warren replied. “We know the way to strengthen the pipeline in West Virginia is to keep the good teachers we have and to continue to work toward strong compensation packages, but also to create opportunities by reducing barriers for any individual who wants to become a teacher in West Virginia.”
Warren says retirements out pace interest from new teachers.
“We see that we’re coming out at a deficit number each year, and like we talked before Curtis, this is something that’s happening on a national stage,” she said. “It’s not unique to West Virginia.”
“Is the state doing enough to attack this problem?” Johnson asked.
“I will never say we’re doing enough, because we always strive to continue to do better and reach more individuals and support more educators,” Warren replied.
While Warren expected this year’s increase, she said she also sees hope. She explained alternative certification programs are beginning to show results in helping adults switch from other careers to teaching.
Warren also believes a program that allows students to earn college credit and gain classroom experience before graduating high school will produce results by late 2024.
“I think the tools are in place,” she said. “I think that we have streamlined it and made it a program that gives them lots of options. Adult learners want options. They want self-paced. They want to be able to enroll when they’re ready to enroll. It needs to be cost effective. And it needs to have high levels of support.”
Those interested in becoming a teacher -- adult or student -- are encouraged to check out the Teach WV website at www.teachwv.com. That’s where education officials information available on pursuing a teaching career.
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