A new report from the Kansas State Department of Education takes a closer look at teacher vacancies and supply while offering recommendations on how to increase the number of high-quality teachers in the state.
A 28-person Blue Ribbon Task Force was created for the report in March 2016 made up of superintendents, principals, teachers, human resources directors, higher education faculty and deans, school board members, and service center personnel, each appointed by Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education.
In all, three categories of recommendations were made by the task force to the Kansas State Board of Education in an effort to reduce the number of teacher vacancies in the state. This included immediate implementation in year one, intermediate implementation in years two and three, and long-term implementation in the fourth year and those that follow.
In order to determine the effectiveness of these recommendations, the number of unfilled teacher vacancies will be examined by the spring of the school year.
The task force found 99.28% of all teaching positions in the state to have been filled by qualified teachers for the 2015-16 school year, with 277 teacher vacancies in all. Of the 286 school districts, 220 reported having no vacancies for that school year.
In terms of teacher recruitment, the number of students who graduate from one of the 25 teacher preparation programs in the state has steadily declined throughout the past four years, going from 2,271 in 2011 to 1,901 in 2014. In addition, the number of students majoring in teacher education within one of the 25 programs has also gone down, from 7,752 in 2011 to 5,379 in 2014.
The report also noted that while 22% of teachers in the state have less than five years of experience, 40% have less than 10 years of experience.
Four immediate priorities were highlighted by the task force in order to decrease the number of vacancies and increase teacher supply in the state. They suggest that more teachers need to be recruited to rural areas, teaching needs to be looked upon as an attractive career to students as well as their parents, early career teachers need to be kept, and that Work After Retirement rules need to be changed to allow retired teachers, principals and superintendents to teach full time without losing their benefits or salary.
A number of recommendations were made by the task force that they say will help to accomplish the four goals outlined above. Among those recommendations include offering a three-to-five year license to attract out-of-state teachers who may need to complete additional requirements in order to obtain a Kansas license and advertising to make prospective teachers aware of the tuition reimbursement program and the federally funded TEACH grant.
They suggest that school districts review their hiring packages in order to offer financial incentives such as hiring bonuses for teachers in high needs and hard-to-fill areas. In addition, they say more steps to the pay scale may incentivize teachers to continue to teach rather than to retire.
They report says that more research is needed to determine why teachers in the state are leaving the profession.