Missouri teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate, advocates report
Missouri’s teacher shortage has been a problem for many years. Now, education advocates report that teachers are leaving the field at an unprecedented rate.
“It was alarming to have many of our members come to us in January and say, ‘You know what, I'm finished teaching for the year. I'm not going back,’” said Missouri State Teachers Association spokesperson Todd Fuller. “That has happened more over the last two years than it's ever happened before.”
Educators cite low pay (Missouri teachers work for some of the lowest salaries in the nation) as a reason for leaving, as well as poor student behavior. Their concerns extend outside the classroom: Educators who left Rockwood School District in the past year said their decisions came after community members directed outrage toward teachers over curriculum and programs offered at school.
“Why did they have to hire security for professional educators in Rockwood?” said Heather Fleming, founder and director of the Missouri Equity Education Partnership. “How many other places might have to do that because of what's happening and the fact that this rhetoric turns up the heat on teachers so much?”
Compounding the crisis is the lack of new teachers to fill the gaps. There’s been a 25% to 30% decline in the number of Missouri college graduates who go through the process of becoming certified to teach, according to Fuller, who added that 80% to 90% of those graduates are white.
That’s a concern for Fleming, who said that research shows the academic achievement of Black students improves when they have a teacher who looks like them.
“More African American students are identified for gifted programs by African American teachers than by white teachers,” she said. “This ends up being a conversation that school districts around the state have over and over again — and we never quite come up with a solution for: ‘How do we attract and retain good, minority educators?’”
Fleming and Fuller joined Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air to discuss the state of Missouri’s teacher shortage and what needs to happen in order for more people, especially those of more diverse backgrounds, to consider the profession. Listen to the conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or Stitcher or by clicking the play button below.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.