A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis decries critical teacher shortages, explores solutions

By Mike Marse
Kentucky Teacher

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said raising awareness of teaching opportunities available to other professionals will be an important part of the work to combat “significant” teacher shortages in Kentucky.

At the recent meeting of the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB), Lewis said during the Commissioner’s Report that the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will soon undertake a campaign to recruit teachers to the profession. One element of that campaign will focus on highlighting alternative routes to the classroom.

“Part of our campaign is going to have to center around greater awareness of professionals, folks who have started in other professions, about what the possibilities are for them to get into teaching,” Lewis said. “I find often in talking to people they’re not aware of all of the routes that are available, and lots of times folks think that the routes are much more onerous than they really are.”

Education Commission Wayne Lewis speaks to the Educational Professional Standards Board. (Photo by Danielle Harris)

Lewis said KDE and EPSB must work to address growing shortages.

“We’ve experienced shortages of teachers in critical shortage areas like career and technical education and special education for some time now, particularly in some regions of our state,” Lewis said. “What is happening now, which is different than we’ve experienced in years past, is we hear from superintendents who tell us they post elementary school teacher vacancies and get no applications.”

EPSB Board Chair Sarah Burnett, who is a 4th-grade math teacher in Pulaski County, applauded KDE’s efforts, saying that another important component of combating the teacher shortage is to encourage K-12 students to enter the teaching profession.

“It is our role as educators, when we see students who have potential to lead a classroom, to encourage them,” said Burnett. “Regardless of our political differences, our role as educators is to encourage, support and empower our students to grow up to have productive lives.”

Lewis said he wants to discuss with the board at future meetings what it can do to help better prepare elementary school teachers, whom he said must have increased expertise in several content areas to teach newly implemented and updated standards.

“You are asking teachers to have incredible expertise in teaching reading, English/language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and sometimes some elective areas. That’s a far greater ask in terms of breadth and depth than we have for teachers typically at the middle school and high school levels,” he said.

“We’re going to be asking you to think about approaches that we might be able to better prepare teachers to meet the content needs of kids without putting a greater burden on the teachers.”

Lewis said it’s important to do more than simply fill vacant positions, however.

“We have the challenge of needing to ensure that we have not just seats filled, but that we have high-quality folks to deliver the type of instruction that we need,” he said.

Computer Science Teacher Shortage Addressed

One area in which more teachers will be needed is computer science. Academic standards for computer science in grades K-12 were recently adopted and implemented, and KDE Chief Digital Officer Marty Park said the next step is ensuring there are enough teachers to keep up with the demand for courses.

Kentucky is one of a handful of states that allows computer science courses to count toward graduation.

“Computer science in Kentucky, as in some other states, has the potential for rapid development,” Park said. “I would love to think about learning computer sciences, but also learning through computer sciences – things like computational thinking, critical thinking, and creativity that can build into an area that we have recently redefined.”

Park said teachers currently are permitted to teach computer science through either traditional certification, occupation-based certification or manual clearances – earning permission, rather than a certification, to teach.

He said KDE’s recommendation for filling the need center on:

• Expanding the opportunities for high-quality endorsements, perhaps through cohort models and peer coaching models;

• Re-examining lead content areas within the new definition of computer science; and

• Moving away from manual clearances to a formal, performance-based, incentivized model for computer sciences as a whole rather than individual courses.

Park noted there are currently about 2,570 open computing jobs in Kentucky.

“Do we want to fill those jobs with students from other states or do we want Kentucky kids there?” he said. “The jobs are there and they’re continuing to develop and increase.”

Contact Mike Marsee at 
mike.marsee@education.ky.gov. Kentucky Teacher is a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education.

Related Posts

One Comment

  1. Alexander says:

    I am interested in the technical teaching how do I apply

Leave a Comment