There is an urgent need for new teachers in Montana, according to figures recently released by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
KGVO News reached out to Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen about ongoing efforts to recruit and retain teachers in the state.
In a press release from Arntzen’s office, the following figures were reported.
“In 2020, the number of unfilled classrooms due to lack of teacher recruitment increased from 353 to 599. In the current Critical Educators report, vacancies increased by 19% for areas such as mathematics and special education. Over the past five years, the number of teachers unlicensed through emergency clearances has increased by 90%.
In the 2021-2022 school year, teacher license renewals and new endorsements resulted in a new low of 5,204, continuing a five-year downward trend. New teacher licenses are the highest in five years with 1,646 new licenses. This is awarded to 40% of applications from out-of-state teachers. Our Montana-Made teachers, drawn from our 10 Montana teacher preparation programs, have seen a 21.47% decline since the 2015-2016 school year.
Arntzen described the actions taken by his office.
“There is more than one solution,” Arntzen said. ” There are many. Right now we have rules and we need public comment on what a quality teacher is in our state and what determines quality, I have the flexibility I offer for recommendations. It has a lot to do with our educated teachers in Montana, but also to open the door in Montana, to be able to have reciprocity with other states.
Arntzen described his “residency program.”
“We also run a project called a residency program, where we pay student teachers for an entire year to be in a school and receive a living wage within their school’s cohort with a school mentor. , and it’s to help retain in their community,” she said.
She said the Montana Legislature has made funds available to help supplement teachers’ salaries for a limited time to help them stay in Montana.
“We supported the ability for the legislature to give dollars for that first through third year of a teacher,” she said. “To do this, we collected excellent data. So it’s very preliminary right now, and it’s an allocation of $3,500. It might not be a lot of money, but for a first grade teacher who can start a family and start their career, it’s motivation, and it’s also a thank you.
She said efforts are also being made to improve professional development to help support these new teachers.
“We are also looking to ensure that we have the opportunity, with our new licensing systems, to be able to provide excellent professional development to our newest teachers coming out of our teacher preparation program, as well as those who are in our existing classroom,” she said. “Basically, it’s just a big thank you to all the teachers currently teaching in Montana, because we want to make your life and your job easier.”
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