Missouri has a shortage of teachers to fill badly needed positions. To make matters worse, retention rates are low, according to Paul Katnik, with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). He said Missouri loses too many early career teachers.

Improving the mentorship program for beginning teachers is top of the list.

“One obvious one that people would understand, I think is, you know, your mentor program for brand new teachers,” said Katnik. “What kind of support do you give brand new teachers new to the profession in years 1 and 2. The better you make that program, the more you keep your new teachers around.”

Over 500 school districts are using state grant funding toward retaining more new teachers. In addition, this year’s state budget again includes state funding to boost annual teacher salaries below $38,000.

Katnik said DESE is studying school districts that use grant funds for teacher retention.

“What are those strategies that worked the best in terms of recruitment and retention that our school districts did so that we’ve got an area moving forward for how we keep the workforce at a healthy level by using this strategies that the research that we’ve done on our own school districts tells us that this is what works,” Katnik said.

Katnik also hopes that investing in the Grow Your Own program pays off. It’s a program that recruits students to become future educators.

“Sometimes we get involved in implementing strategies that we think work and maybe we think that because it would have worked for us when we were in the profession, but we’re recruiting a much different generation of new teachers now and we need to know what works for them,” he said.

According to May data from the department, there were 2,611 vacancies in Elementary Education, 1,268 vacancies in Special Education, and 358 vacancies in Physical Education. The department said that the highest number of teaching vacancies are in the Language Arts, Math, Science, English, and Early Childhood Education areas.

Copyright 2023, Missourinet.