Song Remains the Same in Idaho
Happy New Year! We hope your holiday break was rejuvenating and restful. With the beginning of a new legislative session and the 2017-2018 school year halfway over, we pause and reflect on what 2018 will have in store for us.
Idaho is at a watershed moment. Many districts struggle each year to fill all their teaching positions with certified teachers. Programs are eliminated, long-term substitutes are hired, or emergency certifications are approved to ensure students are educated. As we traveled the state this fall we heard concerns from Troy to Teton and everywhere in between. The problem is especially acute for rural districts, which struggle the most to fill their teaching positions or even hire substitutes.
In late December the Idaho State Board of Education released its 2017 Teacher Pipeline Workgroup Report. The report shows Idaho universities are graduating enough teacher candidates to fill every vacancy across the state. It also emphasizes one third of teacher candidates certified in Idaho are never employed in the state. Idaho must change this. Recruitment goes beyond just starting salary. We must continue to elevate the teaching profession and respect educators for their work. We must help rural districts provide incentives to bring teachers into smaller communities. Idaho students deserve a quality teacher in every classroom.
It isn’t enough to recruit teachers; we must provide supports to retain teachers as well. According to the Teacher Pipeline Workgroup Report, “ten percent of teachers with instructional assignments one year do not have instructional assignments the next year” and fifteen percent of first year teachers leave at the end of the year. As we met with educators throughout Idaho we heard them repeat the same request time and time again. Educators want mentoring and induction programs in their first five years and teachers across the spectrum want quality professional development. Mentoring cannot just be a teacher assigned to another teacher. There must be training, frequent check-ins, access to help and resources when needed. A robust, quality mentoring and induction program must be fully funded by the state to ensure no matter which district teachers are in they feel supported. Idaho students benefit when certified, experienced teachers stay in the state and teach in Idaho classrooms.
Goal three of the IEA Strategic Plan focuses on supporting educators with access to opportunities for professional growth. Each year the IEA continues to expand professional development opportunities taught by members and provided free to members statewide. Teachers are the experts and we have witnessed first hand their expertise. We must continue to provide the outlet and avenue for educators to learn from one another and improve their craft. Plan now to attend the IEA Summer Institute July 27-28, 2018 at Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. The premiere professional development conference is provided free to all IEA members.
As we embark on the Legislative Session your lobby team will be asking one question as legislation is introduced, “How does this help recruit and retain teachers?” We will continue to advocate for resources and programs to ensure teachers feel supported and Idaho remains an attractive state to live and work in. Thank you again for all you do for Idaho’s students. Please don’t hesitate to share your concerns with us around recruitment and retention of teachers. Your stories help strengthen our voice.
We took an in-depth look at the Teacher Pipeline Workgroup report in our cover story for this issue of the IEA REPORTER.