Custer County School District Superintendent Mark Payler reads to 3rd graders during class on April 13, 2017 in Westcliffe.
The state’s largest teacher association says a plan aimed at ending Colorado’s teacher shortage lacks specifics and shortchanges traditional preparation programs.
The plan, created by state education leaders, was introduced this month and was based largely on comments gleaned from town halls held this summer throughout the state. Its recommendations include better base salaries and housing incentives for teachers living in rural areas, student loan forgiveness and “grow your own” teacher preparation programs that will keep teachers from leaving the towns they grew up in.
The Colorado Education Association is concerned the recommendations don’t include ways to get teachers involved in solving the shortage problem, president Kerrie Dallman said.
“It is concerning that there are not more concrete details to ensure the voices of the professional educators who are working directly with our students are part of the decision-making process within the schools-districts-state,” Dallman said in a written statement. Teacher satisfaction and retention are highest in the districts where teachers take part in forming policy and decisions, she said, a process the CEA believes should be mirrored when deciding how to get and retain teachers.
Dallman praised the state’s departments of education and higher education for tackling the growing problem. The CEA is “glad that an in-depth look at the looming teacher shortage is finally being undertaken,” she said.
Enrollment and completion of educator preparation programs have declined by 24 percent and 17 percent respectively since 2010, and nearly a third of Colorado educators soon will be eligible for retirement, according to a state report.
Colorado loses about 16 percent of new classroom teachers within their first five years, the report said.
Teacher shortages have hit Colorado’s 147 rural and small rural districts the hardest. Some math and science classes have been without a regular, assigned teacher for years, said the report, which also notes that 95 percent of Colorado’s rural school districts offer salaries below the cost of living.
Dallman said the CEA appreciates the call for better minimum salaries for teachers. “But we also want to see concrete proposals for providing the additional revenue,” she said.
The CEA also doesn’t want the state to rush new teachers who don’t have the proper training or certification. into the classroom. The state plan calls for increasing the number of teachers trained through traditional as well as alternate education programs that include a “grow your own” effort and dual licenses in areas where there are huge shortages.
“Lowering standards is not how to address the shortage of qualified teachers,” Dallman said. “We must continue to press for rigorous performance assessments that candidates must pass to teach.”
The plan has been presented to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and the Colorado State School Board as well as to the Public Education and Business Coalition. The Colorado Senate and House Education Committees will review the plan this winter.