More than 1,500 non-certified teachers lead instruction in West Virginia classrooms

West Virginia is having a major challenge with certified teachers in classrooms.

Recent figures released by the state Department of Education show 1,544 non-certified teachers in classrooms this school year.  That is up from about 1,200 last year and more than twice the number from 2015, when West Virginia hired about 600 non-certified teachers.

Carla Warren

“We really weren’t surprised. We anticipated that these numbers would rise,” said Carla Warren, the state agency’s director of educator development and support. “And it really boils down to a basic supply and demand problem. We have more and more teachers leaving the profession or retiring and not enough teachers are coming out of teacher preparation programs to fill those vacancies.”

Warren, speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” clarified that there are licensed teachers in most of the spots but they are not certified for the particular subject area.

“So for example you might have a special education certified teacher who has been assigned to teach a behavior disorder class. So they may not be fully certified to teach that element of special education,” she said. “Really, our challenge is how do we support those teachers to become fully licensed in the content area they’ve been assigned to teach.”

She continued, “Our goal is to have fully-certified, fully-prepared teachers in every position supporting every student in the state.”

West Virginia needs to find ways to attract more teachers into the profession, Warren said, “or we’re going to continue to see regression as a society; we’re going to see an impact on our economy.” She described the need for partnerships with business and government. “This is not something that education officials can solve in isolation.”

Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice, who has often said education is the centerpiece of his administration, agreed today that West Virginia needs to be more attractive to prospective teachers.

“We all know what’s going on, and it’s going on nationwide,” Justice said in response to a MetroNews question during a briefing today. “More and  more folks are choosing fields other than education. We need to encourage, and we’ve already put programs in place. We need to do more.

“We would like all of our teachers to be certified. We don’t want kids in the classroom with non-certified folks and everything — but we want people in the classroom, and we feel like we’ve got qualified people in the classroom.”

Justice described his desire to build on the recent rounds of pay raises the state has provided for employees with yet another. “We need pay that will encourage folks to come,” he said. Furthermore, the governor promoted his desire to cut personal income taxes, saying that would encourage more people to settle in West Virginia.

“We need to attract more folks into West Virginia. It’s a field that is absolutely so gratifying and such an honor, it’s off the charts,” Justice said.

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Fred Albert

American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Fred Albert said the issue of attracting teachers into the profession is not just about money but also is a matter of whether they view their role as adequately supported.

“Teachers feel disrespected in many cases, and that goes for service personnel as well,” Albert said on “Talkline.” “We found that we’re losing younger teachers. We’re not just losing those that are retiring because they’ve reached the age of retirement.”

He continued, “Pay is, of course, part of it, but it’s not the only part. More respect and support from the boards of education or the administration is one of the issues that we’re facing.”

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