AZ teacher shortage numbers are in

Clarisse White details Tuesday how she is using a tuition grant program to parlay her political science degree into a master's degree in education at the University of Arizona.

Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

Clarisse White details Tuesday how she is using a tuition grant program to parlay her political science degree into a master's degree in education at the University of Arizona.

TOLLESON – More than 1,300 teaching positions are still unfilled four weeks into the school year according to a new report.

The survey released Tuesday by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association of 135 school districts and charter schools found that they began the year with more than 7,000 vacancies. What that means is they could not find qualified applicants for close to one position out of every five.

Potentially more significant, Justin Wing, the association’s past president who conducted the study, said he found that out more than 500 teachers have resigned so far this year, some simply by abandoning their positions and walking away.

Wing said most of the vacancies are being handled by long-term substitutes. But he said some of the gap was being made up by people teaching extra classes, with other schools either combining classes to the point where it exceeds the school’s class size limits or even where districts had to create multi-grade classrooms.

Of the positions that schools did manage to fill, close to 2,500 were with people who do not meet the standard teaching requirements, with the largest share of those being people whose certification is pending. But nearly 740 of these slots were filled by people with “emergency teaching certificates,’’ people who lack any actual training in how to teach, but have some professional background in the subject like math or physics.

And that has its own limits, with these certificates valid for one year and available only three times to any individual.

The report comes as the state’s three universities formally introduced their “teacher academy’’ programs designed to provide free tuition for one or more years to those willing to go into the classroom.

Each of the schools has a slightly different approach.

For example, the University of Arizona works with those who have degrees in another field and want to go back and get a master’s degree in education. That concept was showcased at a press conference by Clarisse White who has a degree in political science, but is now student teaching high school government.

Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng said her school is focused on a “grow your own’’ program, working with individuals in underserved communities to get them their teaching credentials while they continue to work at their old jobs.

Arizona State University is providing mentoring support for graduates during their first year of teaching.