Maintaining Teacher Quality: A Real Concern
by Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools April 1999
Maryland is experiencing the first stages of a critical teacher shortage. This shortage will potentially affect Maryland students, including the students in your neighborhood school, well into the next decade, and although it has been a problem for some school systems in the metropolitan areas of the state, it is now threatening the quality of classroom instruction in most other Maryland school systems as well.
Why such a shortage?
To put the shortage into better perspective, Maryland has traditionally hired about 5500 new teachers every year. For the 2001-2002 school year, just three years from now, we will need to hire at least 9000 new teachers. Why so many more? Well, for one thing, the number of students enrolling in our public schools is increasing. Secondary enrollments will increase by 33,000 by 2006.
A second contributing factor to this critical situation is the need to replace teachers who decide to retire. Fifty-two percent of our state's current 48,963 teachers will retire or be eligible to retire by 2003, that's over 25,000 teachers! Just think of how many teachers you know who might be among them. So, let's just hire more teachers, right? Unfortunately, it's not that easy. You see, there are only about 2500 students graduating from teacher preparation programs at Maryland colleges and universities each year, and only about 1700 of them decide to teach in Maryland. And that's only part of the problem.
What about training?
Being able to hire the number of teachers we need isn't our only concern. We need to make sure that all our teachers, including the new ones we hire, are fully trained and delivering quality instruction to our students. Just filling the vacancies isn't enough. The progress we have made on MSPAP and school improvement is, for the most part, the result of quality teaching. It is imperative that we value and maintain a well-trained, well-prepared teacher workforce so we continue our positive momentum.
What's the solution?
There isn't a simple or an easy solution to this situation. Such a complex issue demands a multi-faceted approach. That's why we are taking a number of steps to assure that we continue to provide quality teachers in our classrooms.
The State Board of Education recently decided that teacher candidates should achieve very high scores on the new Praxis examinations if they want to become certified to teach in Maryland. These exams will replace the more familiar National Teacher Exam (NTE) beginning July 1, 2000. There are provisions, however, for those students who are already enrolled in teacher preparation programs in Maryland that prepare them for the NTE. Teacher candidates from out of state will also be required to achieve the qualifying scores on the Praxis exams if they want to become certified in Maryland.
Teachers who have Provisional Certificates, meaning they have not completed all the requirements for professional certification, now have a maximum of four years to complete the professional certification. The State Board of Education made this action effective September 1998. Those on provisionals must complete their certification or earn a minimum of six credits per year toward certification. Provisional certificates must be renewed annually.
Maryland teachers are being encouraged to obtain national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan group that has established rigorous standards and assessments for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.
The State Department of Education and the Maryland Higher Education Commission are working together to redesign the way public colleges and universities in Maryland prepare students to teach. This includes a solid foundation in academic disciplines for all teacher candidates, teacher internships at specially designed professional development schools, school-based professional training, and opportunities for teacher candidates to teach children with diverse backgrounds in culturally diverse settings.
We are working with our state legislators to gain their support for scholarships, tax credits, stipends and recruitment bonuses as part of an aggressive, multi-pronged approach to addressing both the teacher quality and teacher quantity issues.
As you can tell, there is no fast and easy solution to our problem. Only a multiple approach will help us build a foundation for continuing to make Maryland stand out as a leading reform state that values its teaching professionals.
We must continue to retain our experienced teachers, recruit highly qualified new teachers, and encourage our young people to pursue careers in teaching in Maryland.