- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Maryland and Virginia public school systems again have a shortage of certified teachers and do not know whether the situation will improve in the coming years.

“We continue to search for ways to draw more qualified people into the teaching profession and keep them there,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s superintendent of public schools. “While the number of new teachers at our schools has dropped somewhat, major shortages remain.”

Several hundred hard-to-fill jobs remain vacant in Maryland’s 24 public school systems with classes either under way or about to start in a few days, according to a report released yesterday by the Maryland State Department of Education.

The report, which also noted a lack of male and minority teachers, was based on information from last fall and projected conditions through the 2005-06 academic year.

Maryland and Virginia officials said the hard-to-fill jobs were in such subjects as business, math, the sciences and special education and called the shortages “critical.”

D.C. officials did not provide a figure on teachers in the public school system or information about whether there was a shortage.

Prince George’s County public schools opened Monday with more than 10,000 teachers in nearly 200 schools. Officials would like to hire 80 more for elementary schools and 80 more for secondary schools for the roughly 137,000 students, said Lynn McCawley, a county schools spokeswoman. The shortage amounts to about one teacher per school.

In Montgomery County, the 15th-largest school system in the country with 140,492 students, officials have hired about 800 more teachers and expect to hire an additional 40 to 45 before classes begin Monday.

The situation is “not unusual” and the county’s biggest demand is for special education teachers, said Kate Harrison, a public schools spokeswoman.

Virginia officials this year project about 1.17 million students and 91,928 teachers. Classes begin Sept. 7. The average teacher salary in 2003 was $42,778.

A 2001-02 Virginia Department of Education’s Report on the Supply and Demand of Instructional Personnel found that 4,136 of the 88,609 public school teacher jobs either were unfilled or filled with unendorsed personnel.

Officials have attributed the problem to such factors as an aging teacher population, inability to retain teachers and increasing student enrollment.

About 9 percent of new teachers nationally leave the classroom before completing their first year and nearly 30 percent leave the profession within five years, according to a 2003 Virginia Department of Education report.

Both states have several programs to find and cultivate teachers, including tuition assistance, stipends, signing bonuses, tax credits, deferments or forgiveness of federal school loans and mentoring programs.

However, a 1999 U.S. Department of Education survey found that only 19 percent of the nation’s teachers have been mentored by a veteran teacher in a structured program.

Julie Grimes, a spokeswoman for the Virginia public schools, said the state programs focus, in part, on finding licensed teachers for rural areas.

John Smeallie, Maryland assistant superintendent for certification and accreditation, said the report yesterday that 20 percent fewer teachers were hired in the 2003-04 academic year indicates that the state might be retaining more teachers and that some of the initiatives might be having an effect.

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