Virginia announces programs to address teacher shortage

Classroom in JMU's School of Education. JMU is one of 7 public schools with newly approved...
Classroom in JMU's School of Education. JMU is one of 7 public schools with newly approved education programs. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 25, 2019 at 6:52 PM EDT
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On Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam announced new pathways for students to become teachers in Virginia's classrooms. The change could help the teacher shortage across the state.

In May, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approved new programs at seven public colleges and universities in the state. Students can now become teachers after earning a four-year undergraduate degree in education.

Previously, students had to complete what was often a five-year master's degree program. Dr. Michael Richards, Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent, said anything that can improve the pipeline for teachers is a good thing.

Richards said even though teachers will be going through one less year of schooling, on-the-job training and mentorship is just as important.

"Teaching is a field where there's definitely a need for academic preparation, but there's also a strong need for on-the-job training."

State Delegate Steve Landes said the new program will get students out of college and into the classroom faster. Both Landes and Richards pointed out the changes also mean less debt for students, since they're not spending as much time in school.

Landes said these new programs are just the first step to ending the teacher shortage.

"We want to keep them here," Landes said. "So that's going to be the next step in the next couple years to make sure these young people at the schools across the state are going to stay here and then work in schools in Virginia."

During the 2018 General Assembly session, Landes sponsored House Bill 1125, which made changes to the teaching licensure process, including improving reciprocity and extending the length of a time a license is valid.

Landes said these new programs are a second step to that bill, which was also directed at helping end the teaching shortage.

You can find more information about the new programs and what schools will have them