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Teacher Shortages Lead Schools To Explore Online Course Options

In Atlantic City, a high school struggling to find a chemistry teacher, turned to an online course provider as their last option.

"The school district advertised three times for a certified chemistry teacher last summer and fall, and three times they failed to get a candidate to accept the job," according to Press Of Atlantic City. "So they turned to Edmentum, a provider of online courses, to fill the gap. This year, four classes at the high school are being taught via the online course, with backup support from a teacher."

The school's Assistant Superintendent Sherry Yahn stated that this new teaching arrangement is "the way of the future." Unfortunately, students don't really seem to enjoy this new "way of the future." Students like Citlalli Madden revealed to the Press Of Atlantic City that taking the online courses feel like teaching yourself. Students added that they would rather have a live teacher help them work through their issues. Chemistry is also a subject that requires hands-on experiments, experiments that are better conducted in person.

"The online chemistry classes at Atlantic City High School represent the intersection of several critical education issues: a shortage of science teachers, school funding cuts and growth in online courses," according to the article.

Atlantic City isn't the only city in the country that is suffering from a dearth of qualified teaching candidates. Last year the SF Gate revealed "75 percent of districts reported a shortage of teachers" in California. The majority of schools in the report were in urban cities. The shortage was so low in fact, that students at an Oakland high school were learning Spanish through an online course. A similar issue was reported in Maine, where Madison Area Memorial High School resorted to using Rosetta Stone programs to fulfill foreign language courses that students had already signed up for, but lacked a teacher for instruction. In addition to science and world languages, schools nationwide are having difficulties filling teaching positions in areas like math, special education, and ELL education.

In mid September of 2016, US News reported that there was a nationwide teacher shortage crisis that seems to be carrying over to 2017 and is in danger of growing even larger. When it comes to the reasoning behind these shortages, all of these reports seem to point to the same issues regarding the profession.

"At a time when public school enrollment is on the upswing, large numbers of teachers are headed for retirement or leaving the profession because of dissatisfaction with working conditions in a profession seen as less desirable than it once was," reported US News.

So, how can we possibly help prevent these numbers of shortages from worsening? Well, some experts say part of the responsibility lies with policymakers. In their opinion, the focus should be on keeping teachers that are already in the profession rather than recruiting new ones. Teacher prep, mentoring, working conditions and salaries are all major driving factors for why individuals are leaving the profession. Educator Keith Lambert touched upon some of these factors in a recent Education World article centering on teacher retention

If states and districts could find ways to address the enervating working conditions associated with the profession, teaching could once again return to being an attractive career path. Until that day, it's looking like schools may continue to use online courses as a substitute for the real thing.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor.


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