Battling a continuing shortage of teachers

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s shortage of qualified teachers shows no signs of abating and continues to hit hardest at the city’s high poverty schools.

Two months into the school year, the number of teacher vacancies in the District still hovers near 100. In addition, an estimated 1500 of those on the job do not have full certification.

A Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF) survey of new Philadelphia teachers this fall found that fewer than half of them were fully certified and more than two-thirds had prior teaching experience of a year or less.

PEF is one of several local organizations that have been urging the District to make the teacher quality issue a top priority.

The District and CEO Paul Vallas have taken several new steps to address the continuing teacher shortage, among them:

  • A new “Campaign for Human Capital” is bringing together business leaders, human resource professionals, academics, union leaders, teachers, and administrators to come up with a plan for strengthening the quality of the teacher workforce.
  • Marj Adler is gone as director of the District’s Human Resources Department. “I’d seen enough in Human Resources to know we needed a new Human Resources team,” Vallas explained. Tomas Hanna, director of teacher recruitment and retention, now oversees Human Resources.
  • The District will be working for the first time with the “Teach for America” program, which brings top college graduates to teach for two years in understaffed urban and rural schools. Vallas said the program might bring 100 or more new teachers to Philadelphia next September.

A new federal education law, known as the “Leave No Child Behind” Act, requires that every classroom have a “highly qualified” teacher in it by 2005-06. Another provision requires districts to notify parents if their children are being taught by teachers that are not “highly qualified.”