Indiana’s teacher shortage has improved slightly, although the vast majority of districts report it remains a struggle to find qualified applicants, according to an Indiana State University survey of Hoosier school superintendents.

The annual survey shows that 91 percent are reporting a teacher shortage in their districts this fall, an improvement over the 94 percent reporting shortages last fall. However, 94 percent reported that they struggled to find qualified applicants, up from 92 percent last year.

“It’s about the same. … We’re seeing a slight decrease overall [in districts reporting shortages], but not much,” said Terry McDaniel, Indiana State professor in the department of educational leadership, who conducts the survey.

The areas of greatest need remain science, math and special education, although those reporting special education shortages declined from 69 percent last year to 48 percent this year. Sixty-two percent reported a shortage in science, and 49 percent a shortage in math in fall 2018.

Eighty-five percent of districts had to apply for emergency permits, 56 percent had to employ teachers outside their licensed areas and 27 percent used full-time substitute teachers. Sixty-five percent of districts reported shortages of two to four teachers, while 24 percent reported five or more.

 A total of 220 districts responded to the survey. Last year, 141 districts responded. Of those participating, 62 percent represented rural districts, 22 percent suburban and 10 percent urban. 

The reasons for the shortage haven’t changed. “We don’t pay well, the job is tough” and prospective teachers are often having difficulty passing the tests required for certification, McDaniel said. Some are choosing to go out-of-state to teach because of difficulties passing Indiana’s CORE content area assessment exams. 

McDaniel is surveying other states as well. “We are getting research back from other states that show about the same pattern,” he said. He has surveyed public school districts in 19 states.

<\z186667>There are some differences; several states don’t issue as many temporary licenses, but in some cases, they use substitutes more often.

<\z186667>Those responding left comments that included:

<\z186667>• “The number of applicants for positions are very few. We had to ask people to apply that are not teachers.”

<\z186667>• “It is no surprise to anyone that we will continue to experience a teacher shortage. There is absolutely no incentive to stay in teaching or for that matter to pursue a degree in education. I am very concerned ... I have grandchildren and I worry if in the future they will  have quality teachers teaching them. The pay is ridiculous. The demands are excessive. Teachers don’t really teach anymore, just test and retest. All the data driven requirements are not successful in helping a student learn.”

<\z186667>• “Pay and lack of legislative support for public schools seems to be a big reason why teachers are leaving the field and not entering into the field. The lack of step ladder is hindering.”

<\z186667>• “Indiana’s war on teachers is winning.”

<\z186667>At Indiana State, Judy Sheese, assistant dean in the Bayh College of Education, reports that in elementary and special education, “We are starting to see a little bit of an increase” in students pursuing teaching degrees, but at the middle and high school level, those numbers have remained “steady” in recent years.

<\z186667>”We’re not seeing the increase we’d like to see at the middle and high school level,” Sheese said, especially in such difficult-to-fill areas as science and math.

<\z186667>While there’s been much discussion at the state level about finding ways to recruit students into the profession, “I haven’t seen anything really effective yet,” she said. “We don’t expect the problem to be taken care of tomorrow.”

<\z186667>She believes the profession needs to be marketed to students as early as middle school. “I think it’s a worthwhile, rewarding profession,” she said. She believes everyone needs to promote the importance of teaching. 

<\z186667>”What’s more important than teachers for kids’ everyday lives?” she said.

<\z186667>One continuing problem is the difficulty some graduates face in taking the Pearson CORE content exams necessary for licensure. That problem didn’t exist with the prior test used, she said. 

<\Iz186667>Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

Sue Loughlin has been a reporter at the Tribune-Star for more than 30 years. She covers general news with a focus on education.