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Addressing the Virginia Teacher Shortage and How a Virtual Academy Partnership Can Help

Addressing the Virginia Teacher Shortage and How a Virtual Academy Partnership Can Help

At the start of the 2016–17 school year, Virginia faced more than 1,000 teacher vacancies, leaving public school districts across the state in a bind, looking to recruit qualified full-time teachers within a short timeframe. The teacher shortage persists into this school year, and the need to mitigate the shortage has led to school administrators brainstorming possible solutions that might address the top 10 critical teaching shortage areas that have been identified by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).  

Here, we’ll discuss some of the reasons that have led to the teacher shortage, ideas that have been implemented to mitigate the shortage, and ways that partnering with a virtual academy can help districts quickly fill staffing gaps.

Reasons Behind the Virginia Teacher Shortage

Teacher Burnout

Nearly 50 percent of teachers reported high daily stress during the school year according to UVA Today. Stress associated with low wages, challenging student and parent behavior, and poor work-life balance are some of the reasons that have been reported to contribute to teacher burnout which inevitably leads to teacher turnover, if left unaddressed.

Wages, Resources, and Location

As far as teacher wages are concerned, the Commonwealth of Virginia was behind the national average in teacher pay by over $8,000, ranking 34th in the country for teacher pay for the 2016–17 school year. Rural areas in particular find it difficult to recruit and retain teachers when larger metropolitan districts offer higher wages, more resources for teachers, and often shorter commutes for teachers living in surrounding areas—all of these reasons factor into why teachers are steadily switching schools/districts or even switching careers entirely. 

Combatting the Shortage

Proposed Wage Increases

Because wages are such a determining factor in retaining teachers, Virginia teachers could potentially see their salaries increasing by five percent on top of the three percent raises already approved last year by the Virginia General Assembly that are set to take place this July, according to The Virginia Gazette. When the three percent was initially approved last year, teachers reported being glad to see a pay increase on the horizon and thought that it was a good start but not nearly enough of an incentive considering the wage discrepancy between the state and the national teacher pay average.  

Out-of-State Recruiting 

Last year, Portsmouth Public Schools began recruiting teachers from outside of Virginia and offering candidates incentives such as a $1,000 advanced bonus and arranging discounted housing rates. Recruiting teachers from out of state was a viable option because the state is a signatory on the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, which helps with teacher license reciprocity. This agreement facilitates teachers with current out-of-state licenses to be able to teach in the Commonwealth of Virginia as long as additional coursework requirements are met, including training in child abuse and neglect, emergency first aid, CPR, and dyslexia. In the meantime, the district’s immediate plan was to bring long-term substitute teachers onboard while the search for full-time teachers continued.

Considering a Virtual School Partner

Partnering with a virtual school program might not seem like a typical teacher-shortage solution; however, it can be a practical, convenient, and cost-effective route to take to address staffing challenges and still retain student enrollment.

For example, Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy is a fully accredited virtual school that partners with schools and districts to provide over 400 courses covering Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) content, including core courses, career and technical education, foreign languages, and health and physical education—all subject areas that are currently facing a critical teacher shortage in Virginia.

Courses come paired with Virginia-certified teachers, and students can simultaneously be enrolled at their own school and enrolled in EdOptions Academy courses as needed, enabling Virginia schools and districts to provide the courses students want and the flexibility to quickly fill staffing gaps when needs arise.  

Read more about What Administrators Need to Know About Teacher Shortages and check out 7 Benefits of Partnering with a Virtual School to continue learning more about how a partnership with EdOptions Academy can help your district manage teacher shortage challenges!