Florida needs more science teachers: Education agency shows shortfalls in three major science subjects
Teacher with students in elementary school science class. Credit: Getty Images
School districts may struggle to find science teachers in the upcoming year, a Department of Education report shows.
Three different science fields for K-12 education have been identified as areas of “critical teacher shortage” for the 2021-22 school year, the report says. That means Florida is in critical need of general science teachers, physical science teachers and earth & space science teachers.
In fact, general sciences was ranked first out of nine areas expected to face critical teacher shortages in the next academic year. Physical science tied for third in the rankings, while earth & space ranked seventh in the line-up.
Other areas of shortages included reading, math and exceptional student education for students with special needs.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association told the Phoenix that one of the main factors for this teaching shortage in science is pay.
“Science and math have always been a harder-to-staff area largely because we don’t pay teachers well,” Spar said. “And if you’re in the field of science and math you can go into the private sector — or even the public sector in other areas — and make significantly more money than you can being a teacher.”
Districts will hire teachers without the regular certifications for the field if the role goes unfilled by someone more qualified, sometimes referred to as “out-of-field teachers.” That’s one of the ways the Department of Education identifies which areas face a teacher shortage.
Out of 3,571 physical science courses taught in the 2019-20, 487 of those courses were taught by teachers who were not certified in an appropriate field to teach the subject, according to the department’s data.
That is also the case for 1,188 teachers who taught general sciences courses, out of 12,483 in 2019-20. For earth & space science, 411 courses were taught by a teacher who were not certified in an appropriate field out of 3,504 courses.
The Department of Education also identifies how many post-secondary students are completing teaching education programs in particular areas to gauge how the future hiring pool may look.
The number of teachers who completed teacher education programs in general science in 2018-19 was only 13, as reported by education programs across Florida in the report. Compare that to the 138 students in English education programs or 115 students in math education programs.
For physical science teaching programs, that number was 15. There were zero students completing a earth & space science teaching program in 2018-19.
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