Teacher shortage and student achievement gap linked

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017

While legislature searches for solution, program gets private foundation backing


Special to The Leader


AUSTIN, Texas — Just weeks before teachers report back to school, a new, innovative program is available to support Texas classroom teachers and address the over $1 billion spent replacing the nearly 40,000 educators of a total 347,000 who leave the profession here every year.

National trends show that teachers who are teaching a new subject or outside of their area of expertise, particularly in hard to teach environments, are most likely to leave the profession within 3-5 years. The national average to recruit and replace each lost teacher is $30,000.

The Meadows Foundation of Dallas recently awarded The Teaching and Learning Foundation of Austin an initial grant to pay the tuition for teachers to participate in a unique, job-embedded support system. The Expert Systems for Teachers®, is hosted through Texas A&M University – Commerce’s College of Education and Human Services (TAMUC) and is available to every degreed educator in Texas assigned to a new or unavoidable out-of-field subject.

The program provides teachers with new assignments, particularly unavoidable out-of-field assignments, with subject-specific instructional support and subject-specific mentoring teacher access over the entire school year. It is designed to save teachers hundreds of hours of classroom preparation time, award them half the continuing education hours necessary for license renewal upon passing an online end of course exam and pay for any necessary subject-area certification (the TExES exam). The over 100 available courses will provide immediate and on-going assistance to principals and superintendents looking for tools to recruit new teachers, minimize attrition and improve instructional quality leading to improved student achievement. Each course provides detailed daily lesson plans, editable PowerPoint class notes for lecture support, student activity book or lab manual and editable assessments for subjects’ teachers are assigned to teach.

“We applaud Commissioner Morath for making teacher recruitment, retention and support as his highest priorities,” said Don Loop, Chair of The Teaching and Learning Foundation. “Across the nation and here in Texas, the leading cause for teacher attrition is the lack of educator support and resources. We can not afford to leave teachers without the tools they most need when assigned to teach a new subject, especially those unavoidable out-of-field assignments .” concluded Loop.

Recently, Charles Butt, CEO of HEB Grocery, donated $100 million to a leadership training institute and $50 million to the Raise Your Hand university scholarship program for high school students who will commit to a teacher education degree. Further, the Governor has proposed a $1,000 raise totaling over $300 million to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom. Certainly, better prepared administrators, incentivized high schoolers and better paid educators will provide dividends in the future.

Complimentary Program: That said, the Expert Systems for Teachers® series is complimentary to these worthy efforts and addresses the teacher shortage issue immediately, assisting in the recruitment of already college degreed candidates to enter the classroom and retaining currently employed teachers by offering subject-specific instructional support and mentoring teacher access for new assignments.

“During last year’s joint legislative hearings, invited and public testimony made it abundantly clear that teachers are leaving the profession in droves.” Pointing to Commissioner Morath’s commitment to educator recruitment, retention and support, particularly for low performing schools, Loop continued, “If tuition grants for Expert Systems for Teachers® through TAMUC could be made available from the TEA Professional Development Budget to augment the Meadows Foundation grant for this coming school year, Texas could see a real return on investment in education while simultaneously addressing the unequal distribution of highly-effective teachers, which is particularly problematic at low-performing schools.”

Empirical Evidence: The need for the program is also underlined by the fact that only 27% of enrollees with new assignments passed the content mastery pre-test in the specific subject they were assigned to teach their students! Empirical evidence among 774 teacher enrollees in the program (originating in Florida) show an improvement in content mastery with pre-test scores going from an average 58% to an average 90% in post-tests. This is relevant because decades of research confirm a better prepared teacher is the most important factor leading to improved student achievement. The Meadows Foundation, the Teaching and Learning Foundation support this program as a practical, economical way to address the issues of recruitment and retention, the unequal distribution of highly-effective teachers, and the just-in-time preparation of teachers for new assignments leading to improved student achievement.