Kathleen Passidomo is worried about the shortage of K-12 computer science teachers in Florida. Passidomo is also chair of the Florida Senate’s PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. So when she decided to write a bill addressing the shortage of computer science teachers, the Senate’s Education Committee was thrilled to agree with her and send the bill forward. Jeff Solochek’s account of the committee meeting for the Tampa Bay Times is here.
Like Senator Passidomo, I am concerned about the shortage of K-12 computer science teachers. I am also worried about the shortage of Spanish teachers. According to the 2017-18 Critical Teacher Shortage Areas document approved by the State Board of Education, there were an estimated 74 vacancies for Spanish teachers in Florida in 2016-17. The document compared this number to the number of graduates of Florida’s teacher preparation programs in 2014-15. For Spanish, the number of graduates was six. That’s right – 6.
In 2016-17, there were an estimated 220 vacancies for teachers with certification in General Science, but teacher preparation programs only graduated 27 in 2014-15. For those certified in the physical sciences – chemistry and physics – there were 214 vacancies but only 37 graduates.
Then there were the subjects that everybody would consider basic. There were 485 vacancies for English teachers compared to 192 teacher prep graduates.
And 447 vacancies for math teachers compared to 196 graduates.
The SBOE report documented a surplus of music teachers, however.
All of this is illustrated in the plot below, which shows the surplus or shortfall (the difference between the number of teacher prep graduates and the number of vacancies) as a percentage of the number of vacancies for fifteen subject areas.
I wish Senator Passidomo would take a look at it.
But here’s another angle on this situation that’s worth thinking about: Perhaps the state’s teacher preparation programs have made themselves irrelevant in some key subjects – Spanish, math, science and English. Florida is already one of the nation’s leaders in district-based alternative certification programs. Maybe some districts are ready to take the next step – ignoring teacher preparation programs altogether. After all, the Chair of the Bay County School Board spent a few days visiting studio physics classes at FSU last fall. Maybe that’s just the beginning of a trend.