Missouri has a shortage of teachers to fill badly needed positions. It’s been a talking point in the Missouri State Capitol for the past several years.

Paul Katnik is with the Office of Educator Quality at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). He told Missourinet that there’s a slight increase in Missouri teacher college enrollment heading into this school year.

“We have a good decade’s worth of data that shows this decline for a number of years kind of bottoming out somewhere around ’18-19, it seems to be the low point,” he said. “The last three years, we’ve seen an uptick, so there is some sign, perhaps that our enrollment is building, which is great because we’ve been working really hard on that the last several years.”

Certification for teachers who complete an enrollment program continue to dwindle. Hiring rates jumped 2% at 11.9%. Katnik said that the national average is around 8%, but he sais retention rates for early career teachers remains low.

“Right now, we lose too many of our early career teachers,” said Katnik. “You know within 1 to 3 years; we’ve lost a good half of the folks who started as a cohort of new teachers, and we need to build those retention rates up. That’s what I mean about reducing demand on the demand side.”

There were 2,611.6 vacancies in Elementary Education, 1,268.0 vacancies in Special Education, and 358.4 vacancies in Physical Education, according to May 2023 DESE numbers. The department said that the highest number of teaching vacancies are in the Language Arts, Math, Science, English, and Early Childhood Education areas.

Katnik does, however, express optimism that the Grow Your Own programs will soon pay off.

“Those are programs offered by like school districts who, you know, work with high school students who would be interested in being a teacher and support them all the way to the prep process and then a large percentage of them end up coming back teaching for that same school district,” according to Katnik. “That’s why they call it Grow Your Own. We’ve jumped the percentage of districts in our state from somewhere around 20% to up over 80% who have some type of program.”

Click here for more information on the most recent vacancy data.

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