Pennsylvania introduces 3-year plan to recruit and retain teachers

The state is annually attracting only 40% of the number of new teachers 10 years ago
A teacher and student in a classroom.
Photo credit Drazen Zigic/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Wolf administration is warning of a possible teacher shortage in Pennsylvania, and has put together a three-year plan to help recruit and retain more educators.

“We've seen a dramatic decrease in people entering the field of education,” said acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty. “10 years ago, roughly 20,000 new teachers were entering our classrooms each year, but last year, there were only around 6,000.”

Additionally, the state said that only once between 2017-18 and 2020-21 had more than 5,039 new teachers enter the workforce in Pennsylvania during an academic year.

Hagarty noted not only a need for more teachers, but also more diversity among them. Only 7% of teachers in Pennsylvania are people of color, while 37% of students are people of color.

“We need to attract and retain great educators. We need to attract and retain great educators from a multitude of different backgrounds,” he said.

The state Department of Education has worked with several groups to create a plan (which you can read below) with 50 steps in five areas of concentration to help recruit more teachers and expand diversity. As the state describes it:
— Take care of unique teacher staffing needs in urban, suburban and rural areas.
— Create a diversity among teachers that matches the state's student body.
— Streamline the certification process and make it more oriented toward teachers' needs.
— Help future educators with higher-quality preparation.
— Create greater access to "high-quality and relevant" opportunities for professional growth and leadership development.

Some steps will have a more immediate effect, like making it easier to accept teacher certification from other states and modernizing the system so it doesn’t take so long to turn around a teacher’s certification.

Others are more long term, like offering grants to encourage a wider range of people from different demographic backgrounds to get into teaching.

Laura Boyce, the executive director of teacher advocate group Teach Plus Pennsylvania, said simply making teachers feel like they’re part of the community, rather than the enemy within the current political culture, goes a long way.

“Some of the legislation that we've seen recently that pits teachers against communities or presents teachers as people who are indoctrinating children. That certainly doesn't help,” said Boyce. Her group helped the state put together the 50-point teacher recruitment and retention plan.

“Our entire society quite literally falls apart if we don't have great teachers. And that's why Pennsylvania's educator shortage is the biggest threat facing not only our educational system, but our future prosperity as a commonwealth.”

Hagarty acknowledges the plan is being rolled out in the final months of the Wolf administration, but he believes it sets up the next administration to get off on the right foot.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Drazen Zigic/Getty Images