Teacher Openings Shrink Dramatically In Connecticut
GRACE E. MERRITT
April 07, 2010
In another sign of the recession and tighter school budgets, the number of teacher openings in Connecticut shrank dramatically this year as school boards try to get by with fewer, a trend that has led to larger class sizes and fewer course offerings in some schools.
The number of teacher openings dropped by nearly 35 percent from fall 2008, when there were 4,533, to fall 2009, when there were 2,957, according to a new state Department of Education report released today.
"The economy is hard and it has hit school districts hard," said Tom Murphy, the department's spokesman. "Districts knew last year that this was going to be a difficult year, so they have peeled back."
In many cases, school boards have cut positions through attrition by not replacing retiring teachers and shifting others around to fill the vacancies, Murphy said.
"They have been cutting to the bone by not filling positions," said Kathy Frega, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Education Association, the largest statewide teachers union.
She predicted that the situation will get worse next year as school boards struggle with even deeper cuts.
As teacher openings declined, the student population also dropped, but by slightly less than 1 percent.
Some experts say having fewer teachers has already led to larger class sizes in some schools.
"We're hearing that some classes in Bridgeport have 30 or more kids in their class," Murphy said. "You can be a great teacher, but if you can't get to every student in your class with individual instruction every day, it becomes difficult."
In addition, some schools have dropped courses such as world languages, science and history, generally targeting classes outside the required curriculum, Murphy said.
The teacher hiring report also noted that the state's largest cities continue to struggle to attract qualified teachers. Taken together, cities such as Hartford, New Britain, Bridgeport and New Haven have a 15.9 percent vacancy rate, compared with 8.6 percent statewide, the report said.
Some segments of the teaching profession are suffering from a glut. For instance, there is such an abundance of elementary school teachers in Connecticut that many applicants have to leave the state to find jobs.
Connecticut has a shortage of teachers in remedial reading, special education, English, mathematics, bilingual education, speech and language pathology, music and world languages.
To attract more teachers, the report recommends expanding mentoring programs for beginning teachers, expanding the alternate route to a teacher certification program and promoting incentives, such as the teacher mortgage assistance program.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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