weakness in numbers

Colorado isn’t producing nearly enough teachers, new report finds

A second grade class at Bryant Webster K-8 school in Denver (Joe Amon, The Denver Post).

Lending support to the notion that Colorado’s teacher shortage might get worse before it gets better, a new report shows that the state isn’t producing enough teaching graduates to keep up with demand.

A labor market report from the Colorado Office of Economic Development found that the number of annual graduates (1,976) falls well short of the annual number of job openings (3,456) for preschool, primary, secondary and special education teachers.

The study also notes the demand for teachers in Colorado is growing faster than the national average.

Last year, it felt like you couldn’t visit Twitter or Facebook without bumping into a story from somewhere about the teacher shortage crisis. (If the New York Times reports it, it must be true — and a thousand localized versions of that story bloom).

But as normally is the case, the portrait looked vastly different depending on location.

Colorado’s traditional teacher preparation programs have been in decline for five years, as documented in February by the state Department of Higher Education. The number of people completing alternative preparation programs, however, is rising.

Other warning lights are flashing. An estimated 5,500 Colorado teachers will retire this year while only about 2,000 state college and university graduates will have earned a teaching license, according to a coalition of 60 education advocacy groups that earlier this year outlined several strategies to tackle the teacher shortage.

One important caveat to the latest labor market report: Many teachers that wind up in Colorado were trained elsewhere. More than one in four Colorado teachers graduate from out-of-state programs, the state Department of Education estimates.

That’s why the anticipated teacher shortage is much smaller than the labor report suggests — approximately 300 positions a year, the higher education department projects. Not surprisingly, the problem is more acute in rural areas.

The labor report provides a mixed picture on supply and demand for those earning degrees in STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math — fields. The state is producing more than enough science graduates, has a slight deficit when it comes to computer sciences and is more in line with market demand in engineering graduates.

Yet jobs that demand these skills pay well, and Colorado has a long bench of employers looking for good people to fill jobs. As a result, the report said, the state might consider a strategic workforce plan to expand teachers and graduates in STEM careers, and encourage employer-run internships, as the Denver Business Journal notes.

The new study does suggest one area of the education workforce may be oversaturated — communications staffs.

As The Denver Post notes in its story:

” … Colorado graduates enough advertising, marketing and public relations majors each year to replace everyone employed in those fields in the state — and then some.”

Nothing against our friends in communications shops. Please respond to our emails and open records requests in a timely fashion.

Catch up on Team Chalkbeat’s previous coverage on teacher supply and demand around the country:

Number of graduates from Colorado teacher prep programs continues to decline (Chalkbeat Colorado, February 2016)

Colorado has a plan for finding good teachers for its most ask-risk kids (Chalkbeat Colorado, February 2016)

Combined teacher residency programs promise “deep bench” of teachers in Colorado (Chalkbeat Colorado, September 2015)

Why New York City doesn’t have a teacher shortage (Chalkbeat New York, August 2015)

People think Indiana has a teacher shortage and they’re probably wrong (Chalkbeat Indiana, August 2015)

 

race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.

Half-priced homes

Detroit teachers and school employees are about to get a major perk: Discount houses

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is announcing an educator discount that will allow employees of all Detroit schools to buy houses from the Land Bank at 50 percent off.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is getting ready this morning to announce a major effort to lure teachers and other school employees to the city of Detroit: Offering them half-priced homes.

According to a press release that’s expected to be released at an event this morning, the mayor plans to announce that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter or parochial schools — will now get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

“Teachers and educators are vital to the city’s future,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the release. “It’s critical to give our school employees, from teachers to custodial staff, the opportunity to live in the communities they teach in.”

If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city.

For city schools, the discounts give administrators another perk to offer prospective employees. District and charter schools in Detroit face severe teacher shortages that have created large class sizes and put many children in classrooms without fully qualified teachers.

Detroit’s new schools superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has said he’s determined to make sure the hundreds of teacher vacancies that affected city schools last year are addressed by the start of classes in September.

In the press release, he’s quoted praising the discount program. “There is an opportunity and need to provide innovative solutions to recruit and retain teachers to work with our children in Detroit.”

The Detroit Land Bank Authority Educator Discount Program will be announced at an event scheduled for 10:45 this morning in front of a Land Bank house in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood.

The Land Bank currently auctions three homes per day through its website, with bidding starting at $1,000.