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    The Rebel HD-2

News

CCSD’s Teacher Shortage

todayFebruary 18, 2022 19

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CCSD’s Teacher Shortage

By Hannah Dunbar

 

During this ongoing pandemic, many public schools in the United States are scrambling as they face a current teacher shortage. States have been loosening the teaching requirements in order to allow school districts to hire more people and this applies to Nevada. In Nevada, in-person classes resumed on Jan. 19.

 

Nevada’s K-12 education has been ranked near the bottom of the nation’s rankings for quite some time, and the shortages are not helping the situation at all. The staffing shortages have caused districts to reduce class sizes as well as reversing the progress made to reduce inequality in classrooms.

 

As the fifth largest district in the U.S., Clark County School Districted (CCSD) serves more than 320,000 students in a variety of urban and rural settings in the most populous region of Nevada.

 

Teaching vacancies have spiked more than 21% in the 40,000-employee district since the start of the school year. Currently at CCSD, there are about 850 licensed employee vacancies. CCSD has reported that they are losing teachers faster than they can hire them.

 

CCSD is consistently running into teacher shortages, leaving students without an assigned teacher since day one and throughout the entire school year. There are yearly shortages of teachers in the areas of Elementary, Special Education, Science, Math, and English. According to a report made in 2020, over the last five school years prior to 2020, about 2.9% of CCSD classrooms (Or 489 CCSD classrooms) have not had a full-time teacher on the first day of school. This affects approximately 12,000 students a year.

 

An estimate of 12.1% first-year CCSD teachers leave after only one year. In addition, an average of 14.9% of experienced teachers resigned for reasons other than retirement. According to a report by the Council for Great City Schools, CCSD retains more first-year teachers than other large school districts across the country, but is lower performing in retaining experienced teachers than its peers.

 

As a countermeasure against these current shortages, CCSD has proposed an idea that anyone with a high school diploma could qualify to be a substitute teacher. A planned hearing will be taking place on Feb. 24 by the Commission on Professional Standards in Education to determine whether this proposal will go into effect or not.

 

In late November of 2020, the State Department of Education collaborated with Gov. Steve Sisolak on a temporary regulation allowing emergency substitutes; however, that expired shortly after.

 

As of right now, being a substitute teacher requires at least 60 college credits or an associates’ degree or higher in order to obtain a substitute teaching license. With this proposition, someone would simply need a high school diploma to receive said teaching license and become a substitute teacher.

 

This proposition would also allow school districts to hire more emergency substitute teachers that allows them to stay on the job for the remainder of the school year until the vacancy can be filled. The position for those with only a high school diploma would require at least one hour of training provided by the school district or school.

 

While this is not set in stone yet, some school employees have voiced their concerns over the proposal. If this proposal gets approval, it will change requirements entirely. It also treads on the line of legality which, potentially, may cause this proposal to be delayed.

 

I have spoken recently with an anonymous 6th grade substitute teacher who works at Fremont Professional Development Middle School about this. The 6th grade substitute shares opinion about the proposal at hand along with how the teacher shortage has been affecting her.

 

“The teacher shortages have been extremely rough,” She said.

 

She explained to me that with the shortage that she hardly has any time to prep before classes because she receives calls to cover for other classes. Typically, most teachers have a “prep time” before class- to unwind and prepare before the class actually starts. That does not happen much anymore for her school. It is work after work. There is hardly any time for breaks for her. Never getting breaks can eat away at a person’s mental and physical health. It is also emotionally draining.

 

“The thought of CCSD allowing people with only a high school degree to teach children does not enthuse me at all for several reasons.” The middle school substitute teacher stated, “People who know nothing about education have antiquated views about how a classroom should run.”

 

I have also spoken with another CCSD employee concerning this issue who also wishes to remain anonymous as well. She is a Specialized Program Teacher Assistant (SPTA) that works in a Primary Life Skill Class. This means that she is also a part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP).

 

An IEP is a program that assists child who has difficulty learning and functioning and has been identified as a special needs student. An IEP lays out the special education instruction, supports, and services a student needs to thrive in school. The IEP describes the goals the team sets for a child during the school year, as well as any special support needed to help achieve them. IEPs are part of PreK–12 public education. IEPs are covered by special education law, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

 

“The shortage is really devastating to me because I feel teachers and paraprofessionals have been treated so poorly for so long that no one wants to have a career in education.” The SPTA said.

 

The IEP teacher that the SPTA works with is rarely able to take time off with the ongoing teacher shortage. It is already difficult enough to find a substitute teacher who is willing to cover for a special education class, but the shortage makes that even harder.

 

The SPTA continues, “When either one of us has no choice, but to be out our admin has to split our class of 12 students between other special education classrooms. This is absolutely devastating to the routines that are vital to the learning structure of our students.”

 

The SPTA also gives her point of view of CCSD’s proposal.

 

“I worry the use of high school graduates will set a low standard for substitute teachers,” said the SPTA.

 

The reason why there is such a teacher shortage is for numerous reasons- one of the major reasons being is that Nevada does not produce enough teachers each year to fill even half of its vacancies. The shortage has always been bad, but it only continues to worsen especially when the pandemic hit. Teachers who catch the virus has had to call out of work, but of course, there is not many to cover for them when they do take off.

 

Not only is CCSD dealing with an ongoing shortage of teachers, but they are also facing an ongoing shortage of school bus drivers. They are short on more than 200 drivers which is causing students to be late to school. The students who rely on the school bus have to wait up to at least 75 minutes for the bus home.

 

With the current shortage, CCSD had taken a five-day pause at the beginning of spring semester in order for the staff to catch up with everything.  Not only that, but more than 3,600 COVID-19 positive cases have been reported in CCSD since students came back from winter break. With the COVID-19 surge, teachers are getting sick as well and have to quarantine even with being understaffed. As more teachers call out, more classes are left with no teacher to cover.

 

CCSD’s fill rate dropped down to about 62.4%, which means that 34% of teacher absences are unable to be filled by a substitute. In fact, some teachers have left in the middle of the school year without any form of notification. There are about 4,000 substitutes in CCSD’s pool. A pay increase took effect this year for substitute guest teachers, which went up from $90 per day to $110 per day.

 

The district is doing everything in its power to continue with in-person instruction for students. A new optional program that started earlier this year called “Test to Stay”. It is a strategy that allows participants to skip quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 every other day. The purpose is to keep more employees and students in the classroom. Any student who signs up for this program can only attend the classes, but not participate in sports or any extracurricular activities in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

 

As of Jan. 1, 2022 Las Vegas schools also offered full-time employees and substitute teachers $2,000 bonus pay to remain at work amid the ongoing winter surge in COVID-19 cases in the county.

 

CCSD is currently taking applications for both teachers and substitute teachers. Applications can be found on the CCSD website. The ultimate goal for CCSD as of right now is filling every classroom with a licensed teacher.

Written by: Ray Fletcher

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