Missouri has had a chronic shortage of K-12 teachers for years and educators are leaving the field at an increasing rate across the state. The pandemic has added salt to those wounds.
In an effort to address the shortages, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has launched a new partnership. Through TeachMO.org, prospective teachers can view an online recruitment platform and explore the profession, receive support in applying to educator preparation programs and access free, resources like coaching, scholarships, reimbursements for application fees. It also brings together K-12 schools, teacher preparation programs, government agencies, and community organizations to develop a statewide system to attract future teachers.
Dr. Paul Katnik, Assistant Commissioner of DESE’s Office of Educator Quality, says the platform is a centralized hub for those wanting to break into the K-12 education field.
“This helps kind of guide them through the information that they need to know the programs that are available in the state, helping them with things like applications and loans, all of that kind of information that sometimes people get lost in and they never make it to a preparation program. This is going to help kind of move them from point A to point B,” says Katnik. “It’s a one stop shop for high school students for substitute teachers, for people who are paraprofessionals anybody who thinks that they want to be a teacher and are like I want to learn more about it. This is the place you go where you can learn all kinds of information about the profession, and be connected with all of our educator prep programs across the state our community colleges who assist with that preparation process.”
The state says over the last decade, enrollment in Missouri teacher preparation programs has declined more than 25%. Katnik has been pushing to find ways to do a better job of keeping teachers around.
“We’re at a point where we really need to face the fact that those kinds of staffing challenges are happening and our districts need help. And this is an attempt to put all hands-on deck. Let everybody help out here and recruit people in and let’s try to heighten our retention rates so that we don’t have so much turnover every year. Let’s do the things that we need to do to make sure our kids are getting the education they deserve to have,” says Katnik.
According to TeachMO.org, after speaking to a coach, 90% of participants said the call made them more likely to pursue teaching.
Katnik, says the state is investing $50 million over the next three years in teacher recruitment and retention efforts, including the use of the digital teacher recruitment hub. The state is also awarding grants to districts, charter schools and higher education institutions to recruit and retain teachers.
“The work that we’re doing with Teach.org – it’s a nonprofit organization set up by the U.S. Department of Ed to work with states on teacher shortage issues. And so that money isn’t going there,” says Katnik. “It’s really going into these grants to help these folks develop some strategies work together to find people to get them into the pipeline and get them prepped, and then get them into our classrooms. Of that 50 million, we’re spending 20% or so on the recruitment side. And we’re spending 80%, the vast majority on the retention side. The reason we pushed it that way is that recruiting people right now, which we need to do in filling the pipeline, we still won’t have a certified teacher for a couple years, and the need is right now. And so, we wanted to put a higher majority of the money into doing activities and things in our schools that will keep our teachers in the classrooms where they are right now.”
To hear the full Show Me Today interview, click below.
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