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Missouri education leaders tackle statewide teacher shortage

Missouri, facing an ongoing shortage of K-12 teachers, hopes to encourage the high school students of today to become the teachers of tomorrow.

“They are sitting in our high schools today,” Dr. Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner of the state Office of Educator Quality, told Missourinet. “We should take advantage of the opportunity and recruit them in. We just feel like we have to be aggressive about recruiting.”

The reason for the aggressive approach is because the state is keeping only about one-third of its teachers as far as year six. “That creates all these holes that have to be filled, and we don’t have the supply coming that we need to have to fill that,” he said.

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The department wants $200,000 in its next state budget to build some students into educators of tomorrow. The funding would award startup grants to about 20 school districts with high-minority, high-poverty populations and those in hard-to-staff content areas and geographical locations.

Districts can choose their own approach to the program called “Grow Your Own”, but they all have the same end game — to recruit within their own student population. The direction could range from something as simple as starting a club to one that offer full scholarships requiring those students to teach for a period of time in the district after they graduate from college.

“That’s one of our big, attempted selling points here is you’re not recruiting students to work in other school districts,” Katnick said. “You are actually building your own pipeline. There’s some National Education Association data that came out years back that said 60 percent of teachers teach within 20 miles of where they went to school. And that’s the whole notion is the high school students in your district now are likely to be your future teachers. So, let’s get very intentional about identifying them, supporting them, and building up your own pipeline.”

Educators say it could take the better part of a decade to rebuild the ranks of Missouri teachers from the current shortage.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice