TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The State Board of Education is expected Wednesday to approve a report that details a shortage of certified science, English and math teachers in Florida’s public schools.
The annual report points to issues such as a scarcity of certified teachers in subject areas such as general science, physics and chemistry when compared to fields such as elementary education. Also, it details factors such as teacher-education programs turning out relatively few science and math teachers.
“The shortage areas … represent certification areas where substantial proportions of teachers who are not certified in the appropriate field are being hired to teach such courses, where significant vacancies exist and where postsecondary institutions do not produce enough graduates to meet the needs of Florida’s K-12 population,” the report said.
The report, which will go before the state board during a meeting in Pensacola, recommends designation of “critical teacher shortage areas” for the 2019-2020 school year. State law requires such shortage areas to be identified each year.
Eight areas are singled out at as having critical shortages, with a general science category at the top of the list. It is followed by English; mathematics; English for speakers of other languages; a physical science category that includes chemistry and physics; reading; technical education; and a broad category of exceptional student education, which includes students who receive services for such things as hearing impairment, physical impairment, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.
Using a formula that takes into account the number of courses offered, English had the highest percentage of courses taught by teachers without the proper certification. The report said school districts “prefer to hire teachers certified in the appropriate (fields) for the courses they teach when possible to ensure students are taught the Florida Standards at the level of rigor required.”
Concerns about shortages of qualified teachers in certain subject areas, such as math and science, have existed for years -- and are not only to Florida. A 2016 report by the Education Commission of the States said evidence was “insufficient to support claims of an increasing teacher shortage on a national level,” but it said problems existed in certain fields.
“Teacher shortages are often confined to certain subject areas such as math, science and special education,” the Education Commission of the States report said. “Since (the 1999-2000 school year), staffing challenges have lessened but remain in math and special education, but since 2003-04 staffing challenges in science have failed to improve. Colleges in many states are overproducing candidates with expertise in already-staffed, low-demand subjects such as elementary education and under-producing candidates with expertise in understaffed, high-demand subjects such as science and math.”
The new Florida report also indicates schools that received “D” ratings for their performances over the past three years have higher percentages of out-of-field teachers than other schools.