At VCU, education school deans brainstorm ways to address Virginia’s K-12 teacher shortage

Virginia Secretary of Education, Dietra Trent, Ph.D., (left) said 800 classrooms in Virginia lack...
Virginia Secretary of Education, Dietra Trent, Ph.D., (left) said 800 classrooms in Virginia lacked a permanent teacher last October, and the state is on pace for a similar shortage this fall.
Photo by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs

Deans of schools and colleges of education from across Virginia gathered at the VCU School of Education on Wednesday to explore ideas about how to best address Virginia’s critical shortage of K-12 teachers.

"Virginia is experiencing a statewide shortage of teachers that is strongly impacting Richmond and Petersburg schools," said VCU School of Education Dean Andrew Daire, Ph.D. "We’re discussing strategies on how colleges and schools of education can address this challenge, including the viability of bringing education majors back to schools and colleges of education.”

“As a school of education in a premier urban research university, it is important for us to meaningfully address the issues faced in our state," he said.

Among the group Wednesday were representatives of education schools and departments at the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, Virginia State University, Longwood University, George Mason University, Radford University and the College of William and Mary.

Also in attendance were superintendents of local schools, including James F. Lane, Ed.D., superintendent of Chesterfield County Public Schools, and Eric Jones, Ph.D., of Powhatan County Public Schools.

Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent, Ph.D., also participated in the working session, saying that there are few issues more critical facing Virginia than addressing the teacher shortage.

“Last year by the end of October, there were over 800 classrooms across the commonwealth without a permanent teacher. And by early estimations, it appears we’re going to be on a similar track this year,” she said.

“What you are doing today is more meaningful to the commonwealth than you can ever imagine,” she added. “The teacher shortage in Virginia is at a critical state. But I have faith in the convening of this group that you will help see us through.”

Holly Coy, deputy secretary of education, presented data showing school divisions across Virginia are struggling with teacher shortages, while the K-12 student population is increasing.

“We can see that our K-12 population is growing, while the number of students enrolled in teacher prep programs is down,” she said. “And [we also see] that the demographics of our student population are rapidly changing.”

Coy also outlined how school divisions are facing shortages of several specific specialties, including special education and elementary education.

“[Elementary education] was recently put on the Board of Education’s list of critical shortage areas,” she said. “Historically, it had not risen to the top of the list, but the fact that it is now on that list is a siren for many of us.”

The deans met a day after a state task force focused on diversifying Virginia’s educator pipeline presented its recommendations to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Board of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The task force of educators, superintendents, human resource professionals, higher education teacher preparation program administrators — including Daire — and state-level policy staff made a variety of policy recommendations. Those recommendations included steps to diversify the teacher applicant pool, create strong professional pathways to licensure and employment, and support the retention of teachers of color, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, in the K-12 education workforce.


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