By MEGAN A. CONLAN
ANNAPOLIS (Oct. 3, 2008)—Unsatisfactory working conditions and insufficient salaries top the reasons for Maryland's teacher shortage, said a report presented to the University System of Maryland Committee on Education Policy Thursday.
The report, prepared by the Maryland Teacher Shortage Task Force, makes recommendations about the recruitment and retention of teachers in Maryland and about the collection and storage of data relating to current and prospective state teachers.
Nationwide, states are having difficulty keeping teachers in the classroom. According to a 2005 publication from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, only 50 to 60 percent of teachers will continue in the field for longer than five years after beginning their career.
In Maryland, schools must hire from out-of-state programs because there are an insufficient number of students graduating from Maryland teaching programs to fill available positions, the task force's report said.
Often, teachers who do work in Maryland are dissatisfied with conditions. Lack of support from school administrators, and even from parents, is one of the complaints.
"You've got to provide a decent classroom, you've got to provide supportive principals, and so incentives is a whole block of things that we talked about," said Patricia Florestano, referring to the task force. Florestano is committee chairwoman and task force co-chairwoman.
Inadequate salaries are among the biggest problems. Without the incentive of higher pay, many teachers accept jobs outside Maryland or in different professions.
The report suggested that teacher salaries be raised to the level of other careers that require the same amount of training. Teachers in the United States on average make 14 percent less than members of other professions requiring similar education and training, according to the report.
A survey by the American Federation of Teachers found the average teacher salary in Maryland in 2004 was just over $50,000 a year, ranking the state 12th nationally.
The task force emphasized the importance of the actual amount and quality of teacher preparation and training.
"We have to be sure we're doing a good job of preparing our teachers," said Florestano.
"A lot of the work that the university system institutions are going to be doing is going to be very much related to new program development and creating high-quality programs that get all the people who would like to be teachers to become teachers," said Nancy Shapiro, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University System of Maryland, and a task force member.
Although some members said there may be too many recommendations in the report, the committee forwarded it to the Board of Regents for consideration at its October meeting.
"I think we can come up with something that will give teachers hope," said committee member Frank Reid.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.