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New Teacher Retention Could Be Major Cause of Ongoing Shortage

By Paul Boger | Published 06 Dec 2013 08:30am | comments

Mississippi public schools are facing yet another year without enough teachers in the classroom. M-P-B's Paul Boger reports members of the task force charged with studying the shortage believe part of the problem lies with new teacher retention.

 This school year, the Mississippi Department of Education issued more than 1000 emergency interim licenses that allow educators across the state to temporarily teach subjects outside of their field of study.

 Rep. John Moore is the Chairman of the House Education Committee. He says part of the reason is because young teachers are much more likely to leave the profession than other who came to it later in life.

 "Their highest rate of retention is with people who have already been out in the working force or have a different degree, and then decide that they want to teach." said Moore. "When they come back into the classroom, they stay there. That's very telling, and we really need to look at why those teachers that leave our teaching universities don't stay in the classroom but two or three years."

 Cerissa Neal is with the state Department of Education. She says young teachers leave because other states offer higher pay and recruit those teachers away from Mississippi public schools.

 "I think it's always difficult to find people in subject areas, the main tested areas English, Biology, Math and Social Studies." said Neal. "Primarily because there is a lot of competition for people interested in those fields."

 Senate Education Committee Chair Gray Tollison has a different idea. He says retention also relies on the amount of support teachers get from their individual school districts.

 "I mean you have a supportive district with a good superintendent, good principle, you're going to have a teacher more likely to go there than some other district." said Tollison, "It's just like recruiting in college sports. If you have a great program, and it has previous success you're going to be more likely to go there. That has an impact in it as well, when you know that you're going to have that support once you enter that classroom."

The highest number of teacher vacancies in the state is in areas such as special education, math and science.

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