By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana ranks among the lowest states for teacher recruitment and retention, a fact Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction knows well.
“The teacher shortage is real,” said Jennifer McCormick, who was superintendent of Yorktown Community Schools before her election last year. “As a department we can only do so much. We need legislative help.”
An October survey of Indiana school superintendents found 94 percent of 141 school districts have a teacher shortage — a two percent increase from 2016.
McCormick and the IDOE outlined ways to combat the issue in its 2018 strategic policy priorities that were released Monday, including making the teacher licensing process more flexible.
Each year more would-be teachers are struggling with passing the CORE assessment, which is required to obtain a teacher license. During the last academic year, fewer than 40 percent of prospective teachers passed the middle school English, math and science exams.
To fix the issue, McCormick said she would ask for flexibility in legislation that would allow for alternative ways to obtain a license, like a waiver program. If education students did well in their classes and student teaching experiences but couldn’t pass the exam, they would be able to get a wavier and would be provided additional professional development training from their future employer.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick outlines the Indiana Department of Education’s 2018 strategic policies. Student learning, school improvements and operational effectiveness are some of the department’s top priorities. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
“We think that would be extremely helpful so we are looking at alternatives to help with the solution,” McCormick said at a media availability Tuesday. “It really goes to supply and demand and risk versus reward. We need candidates that we can employ and provide professional development.”
Illinois implements a similar program to the one proposed by McCormick.
Gov. Eric Holcomb outlined his 2018 agenda earlier in the month, and one of the points would require every Indiana school to offer at least one computer science course by 2021.
While McCormick supports it, she does not want to see it as a graduation requirement.
“True computer science is academically very rigorous,” McCormick said. “Is it appropriate for every student? I would argue probably not and would not support that as a graduation requirement because it is not the right thing to do for all students.”
McCormick, like Holcomb, plans to implement graduation requirements that will help create a skilled and ready workforce.
Aside from finding ways to fix the teacher shortage and advocating for different graduation requirements, McCormick and the IDOE outlined other key priorities including:
- Advocate for the compulsory school age of five to demonstrate commitment to Indiana’s comprehensive investment in education.
- Modernize Career Technical Education courses, clusters and pathways to align high-demand career opportunities with student interest.
- Advocate for the revision of Indiana’s diploma requirements to ensure they connect with post pre-K-12 demands and meet student interest.
- Implement Indiana’s newly created STEM plan to increase science, technology, engineering and math opportunities, with a priority on kindergarten to fifth grade.
“The bottom line is to show a commitment for doing what’s best for students,” McCormick said. “It also sends a message that we are here to guide, lead and support the field.”
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.