West Virginia admitted that it is having a certification problem with teachers, with many teachers not carrying the proper teaching certification for the classrooms that they currently teach.
WV Metro News reported that 1,544 teachers are not fully certified to teach in their classrooms, which is a marked uptick from previous years. Last year, the number of non-certified teachers was 1,200, and in 2015, the number was as low as 600 teachers.
The West Virginia Department of Education said the numbers were not a surprise to them because “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.”
The issue is that the teachers require further certification specific to their classroom and duties, but these are certified teachers. The example from a department official is that a special education certified teacher has a teaching assignment, but lacks a specific certification to teach an element like behavior disorder within special education.
To try to boost hiring of teachers, Republican Gov. Jim Justice said that he will try to pass a new round of pay raises for teachers and cut income taxes to incentivize people to move to West Virginia.
The national narrative about teacher shortages makes it seem that many teachers retired and there are not enough teachers to fill the void. But most of the rhetoric ignores the reality that some teachers leave teaching to work in an administrative role in a school district, teachers’ unions are ill-suited to recruit and place teachers in existing vacancies, and the pay scales are not conducive to first-time teachers entering the profession because the pay scales prioritize longevity over skills and previous experience.
West Virginia is not the only state struggling with keeping its teachers fully certified, but it is a demonstration of unions’ certification standards that could be keeping prospective teachers out of the profession.