ANNAPOLIS – New federal legislation has left Maryland school officials scrambling to find teachers, amid a national teacher shortage, to meet more stringent qualifications, the state schools chief told lawmakers Tuesday.
Passed in January, the No Child Left Behind Act sets minimum standards for the nation’s schools on issues such as testing, teacher qualifications and school achievement.
Finding teachers has been the hardest problem education officials have faced so far, said state Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick to the House Appropriations subcommittee on education.
Federal law now requires every school to have only “highly qualified teachers,” which state officials have defined to mean certified teachers.
However, the state has relied heavily on provisional teachers – who hold a degree in their subject, but have no teacher certification – during the past few years because of the worsening teacher shortage.
More than 5,000 provisional teachers were hired statewide during the 2001- 2002 school year.
Under the new law, provisional teachers must become certified or quit teaching after a year, creating more teacher vacancies in already short-staffed schools.
“This having highly qualified teachers is a huge struggle for us,” Grasmick said.
The teacher shortage will only worsen, school officials said.
State colleges and universities produce about 1,500 teaching candidates a year, said Ron Peiffer, assistant state superintendent, yet the state is expected to need about 8,000 teachers.
“Sounds to me like we have a major problem,” said Delegate Frank Turner, D-Howard, during the briefing. “We’re far short in training teachers in Maryland.”
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, the state education department is also required to notify parents of children taught by instructors not yet “highly qualified.”
That task could become a “huge tracking issue” that is both time consuming and costly, Grasmick said.
Despite the problems, Grasmick said she is committed to complying with the act.
Maryland is already ahead of other states in changing its assessment process. The education department recently replaced the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, which only graded school performance, with the Maryland School Assessment, which will give individual student scores. “This is a very challenging journey we’re on,” Grasmick said. “But I feel confident we can do it and we have to – it’s the right thing to do for our children.” – 30 – CNS-11-12-02