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)

 

negotiations

Aurora school board reverses course, accepts finding that district should have negotiated bonuses with union

Students in a math class at Aurora Central High School in April 2017. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

Following weeks of criticism, the Aurora school board on Tuesday reversed course and accepted an arbitrator’s finding that a pilot bonus system violated the district’s agreement with the teachers union.

The Aurora school district rolled out an experiment last year to offer bonuses to some teachers and other staff in hard-to-fill positions, such as psychologists, nurses and speech language pathologists.

The teachers union argued that the plan should have been negotiated first. An arbitrator agreed and issued a report recommending that the pilot program stop immediately and that the district negotiate any future offerings. The union and school board are set to start negotiations next month about how to change teacher pay, using new money voters approved in November.

When school board members first considered the arbitrator’s report last month, they declined to accept the findings, which were not binding. That raised concerns for union members that the district might implement bonuses again without first negotiating them.

Tuesday’s new resolution, approved on a 5-1 vote, accepted the full arbitrator’s report and its recommendations. Board member Monica Colbert voted against the motion, and board member Kevin Cox was absent.

Back in January 2018, school board members approved a budget amendment that included $1.8 million to create the pilot for incentivizing hard-to-fill positions. On Tuesday, board member Cathy Wildman said she thought through the budget vote, the school board may have allowed the district to create that incentive program, even though the board now accepts the finding that they should have worked with union before trying this experiment.

“It was a board decision at that time to spend that amount on hard-to-fill positions,” Wildman said.

Board president Marques Ivey said he was not initially convinced by the arbitrator’s position, but said that he later read more and felt he could change his vote based on having more information.

Last month, the Aurora school board discussed the report with its attorney in a closed-door executive session. When the board met in public afterward, it chose not to uphold the entire report, saying that the board could not “come to an agreement.” Instead board members voted on a resolution that asked the school district to negotiate any future “long-term” incentive programs.

Union president Bruce Wilcox called the resolution “poorly worded” and slammed the board for not having the discussion in public, calling it a “backroom deal.” Several other teachers also spoke to the board earlier this month, reminding the newest board members’ of their campaign promises to increase transparency.

Board members responded by saying that they did not hold an official vote; rather the board was only deciding how to proceed in public. Colorado law prohibits schools boards from taking positions, or votes, in private.

The board on Tuesday also pushed the district to provide more detailed information about the results of the pilot and survey results that tried to quantify how it affected teachers deciding to work in Aurora.



story slam

The state of teacher pay in Indiana: Hear true stories told by local educators

It’s time to hear directly from educators about the state of teacher pay in Indiana.

Join us for another Teacher Story Slam, co-hosted by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Chalkbeat Indiana, and Teachers Lounge Indy. Teacher salaries are the hot topic in education these days, in Indiana and across the country. Hear from Indianapolis-area teachers who will tell true stories about how they live on a teacher’s salary.

Over the past two years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from the teachers, students, and leaders of Indianapolis through our occasional series, What’s Your Education Story? Some of our favorites were told live during teacher story slams hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy.

Those stories include one teacher’s brutally honest reflection on the first year of teaching and another teacher’s uphill battle to win the trust of her most skeptical student.

Event details

The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at Clowes Court at the Eiteljorg, 500 W Washington St. in Indianapolis. It is free and open to the public — please RSVP.

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