It is back to school time! But many schools in Illinois are starting the year off without enough teachers. A number of school districts are dealing with a shortage of teachers to fill open positions.
“Peoria Public Schools Vexed by 68 Open Teaching Spots” – Peoria Journal Star, August 24, 2016
“Majority of Illinois school districts having trouble filling positions” – The State Journal-Register, January 9, 2016
Unfortunately, this is not just an Illinois issue. A number of states are experiencing a teacher shortage dilemma. The Education Commission of the States created a series of reports to examine the national teacher shortages (http://www.ecs.org/ec-content/uploads/Teacher-Shortages-What-We-Know.pdf).
The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools in conjunction with Goshen Education Consulting conducted a survey among Illinois school districts in 2015 to better understand the challenges Illinois school districts were experiencing in filling teaching positions with IL-certified teachers. The challenge is due to a decrease in the number of applicants in the state as well as a perceived quality issue of current applicants.
The Executive Summary of the report indicated the following results:
- 60% of the responding districts had difficulty with staffing positions.
- 76% reported that they had fewer qualified candidates applying for positions in their districts.
- 16% had to cancel classes due to shortages of teacher with appropriate qualifications.
- 80% of high school districts and 87% of unit districts indicated that they had fewer qualified candidates applying for positions.
The complete report can be found at: http://iarss.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IllinoisTeacherShortage_12-10-15_kd-2.pdf
Illinois Virtual School (IVS) is working with its partner schools to help fill the gap. This fall, IVS is offering complete sections of Spanish and French to 14 schools that cannot find instructors. We also anticipate a Science implementation. IVS has found a number of support and training initiatives that have helped make full-class implementations of virtual courses successful. The following initiatives occur prior to the start of school:
- Planning meeting with the building principal, technology support, local support contact, and guidance counselor if available. All aspects of the program are reviewed and expectations established.
- The school and IVS coordinate a test of technology to ensure computers meet the minimum system requirements for the IVS courses. The computers will need to pass the IVS system check prior to the course start date. This includes allowing access to all software applications and URLs to be accessed by students through the school network including Wi-Fi, networks and proxy servers.
- IVS schedules training for the local support person(s) in the classroom via web conferencing. This is an opportunity for the IVS instructor and local support person to meet virtually. Topics cover monitoring student progress, student pacing in the course, review of accessing course lessons, among others.
- A Memorandum of Understanding is put in place to ensure the role and responsibilities of each party are clearly understood.
- Teacher assignments are made to ensure all students in the class/school have the same instructor. IVS is exploring options for scheduling synchronous support during the class period.
- Schools are given the option to modify assessment settings to allow for in-class proctoring.
State Virtual Schools are not in the business of replacing teachers, and creating full course sections can create funding and operational challenges for these online programs. But IVS is very much in the business of working with partner districts to solve problems and provide students with the courses they want and need to graduate. It is challenge IVS and state virtual schools across the country are happy meet.