BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s teacher workforce has seen a 30% drop in the ranks of aspiring teachers, a glut of educators working outside their field of expertise and a glaring need for more racial diversity, according to a new state report.
The findings were presented to a joint meeting of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the state Board of Regents, The Advocate reports.
A 17-member task force worked on the study authorized by the state Legislature earlier this year to address a growing teacher shortage that school leaders say is making it difficult to ensure that classroom slots are filled.
“We have classrooms not staffed because teachers have left the profession,” said Belinda Davis, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from Baton Rouge.
Those enrolled in teacher preparation programs have dropped 30% over the last decade, according to the report, from 17,898 teacher candidates in 2011-12 to 12,597 during the last school year. And the number of those finishing the programs has fallen 15% during the same time, from 3,231 to 2,743.
St. Bernard Parish Superintendent Doris Voitier, a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said she was unable to start the school year with enough teachers.
“Alternative certification programs are coming up all over the place because that natural pipeline we used to have is not productive enough,” Voitier told the newspaper.
Of the 43,931 Louisiana teachers in 2020, nearly one in four is either uncertified or working outside their field, according to the task force. Math and science classes suffer the most, with 21% of public school math classes and 24% of science classes taught by someone uncertified or outside that field.
The task force suggested both education boards should be seeking more diversity in the classroom in a state where 73% of teachers are white and 23% are Black. White women make up 60% of teacher ranks and Black males only 5%, the report says.
“We have been talking about the need for teachers of color in the elementary, middle and high school setting,” said Susannah Craig, deputy commissioner of the Board of Regents and a member of the task force.
The task force said it plans to hold “listening sessions” with teachers in 2022 to discuss opportunities and barriers to educator retention. It also plans to team up with the Board of Regents to study the impact of teacher entrance exams and the chances for setting up a statewide compensation plan, the newspaper reported.