The teacher supply is plummeting. Pa. will spend $2M to stem the tide

Amid a plummeting supply of teachers nationwide, Pennsylvania is spending $2 million to recruit and retain more educators.

Pennsylvania used to license more than 14,000 new teachers annually. Now, it issues certificates to fewer than 5,000. The state is aiming to do something about that.

Gov. Wolf announced grants Thursday to eight universities around the commonwealth — including Drexel, Cabrini, Lehigh, and the University of Pennsylvania — to develop and implement residency programs for educators.

“While Pennsylvania’s educator preparation system is one of the largest in the country, the commonwealth faces significant challenges, including a steep decline in the number of qualified teaching candidates,” Wolf said in a statement. “These grants will benefit our students by providing advanced training to better prepare teachers and school leaders to serve in our most high-need areas.”

The number of education majors in Pennsylvania colleges and universities has dropped 55 percent since 1996, officials said. And the number of new teaching certificates issued in the state sunk 71 percent between 2009-10 and 2016-17, to just 4,412 from 14,247.

(In New Jersey, the drop in teaching certificates is less. About 36,000 certificates were issued in the 2017-18 school year, state officials said, down from 43,561 in 2009-10 for a drop of about 17 percent.)

The situation is not limited to this area. There is a nationwide shortage of teachers — most acute in special education, science and math. The supply of new teachers is declining, according to recent research, as the demand for educators is swelling.

Teacher turnover is a problem as well. Up to 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession in the first five years; experts estimate the teacher attrition rate is about 8 percent annually, with higher rates in urban districts.

The Pennsylvania grants will in some cases pay for the establishment and expansion of programs that prepare teachers and principals with a full-year residency. Drexel was awarded $710,275 to expand its residency program. Other universities are getting funding to plan such residencies for principals and teachers. Cabrini was awarded $74,688, Lehigh $56,771, and Penn got $74,575 for planning.

Residencies will be developed in partnership with at least one high-needs district, and will include clinical experience and intensive supports, officials said.