Jobs await education majors

A new survey indicates the education job market in Oregon is open, which means good news for University education majors.

Nearly half of Oregon’s K-12 principals report that finding teachers has grown increasingly difficult, according to a recent survey conducted by the Oregon Quality Assurance in Teaching Program.

The survey, taken of 661 K-12 schools in Oregon, shows principals are scrambling for special education and language teachers in Salem, the northern coast and Eastern Oregon.

While the news poses some problems for Oregon school districts, the findings are advantageous for University education students, said Dianne Ferguson, coordinator of academic support services and an education professor.

“In times of shortage, students have more choices,” Ferguson said, especially in areas such as salary and location.

The University’s education department is taking steps to respond to the needs of K-12 schools, Ferguson said. For example, the department has increased admission to its secondary education program to about 100 education majors and has made an effort to recruit non-traditional students, such as those returning to school or interested in switching careers.

According to the survey, certain areas are having more difficulties hiring than other parts of the state.

Ferguson said that most education students prefer to teach near where they were trained. Since most teacher preparation programs are located in Portland and the mid-Willamette Valley, that’s were a large number of students look for positions.

There are also a number of other factors contributing to the shortage, including a higher teacher retirement rate and stricter licensing standards.

“In the past two years, there has been a favorable atmosphere for employees to retire,” said Paul Driskill, principal of Candalaria Elementary School in Salem. He said the district has done a lot of hiring to make up for this loss.

Another reason is the state’s recent emphasis on certain subject areas, such as foreign language and math, and a shortage of special education teachers, Driskill said.

The shortage has raised the issue of school reform and the quality of the teachers available, said Holly Zanville, associate vice chancellor of Oregon University System and director of the Oregon Quality Assurance in Teaching Program.

“There is more pressure on schools to have good teachers,” said Zanville.

She said it is not enough for an education major to go into the classroom and work with the kids as a student teacher; they have to be able to help them learn, Ferguson said.

In the past three years, the University’s education department has revised its licensing and teacher preparation programs in order to be in line with new state standardized testing at the K-12 level throughout the state.

Teachers today need greater assessment skills to be able to identify which students need improvement, said Martin Kaufman, dean of the University’s education department.

“Teachers are challenged not to get just one student over the bar, but every student,” Kaufman said.

With the licensing change, education students are required to spend more time student teaching. The teachers can also receive special-education endorsements, which allow them to work effectively with students who have learning disabilities.

The results of the work done by the University’s education department seem to have already had an effect. The study, Zanville said, showed that principals in K-12 school already see the difference in the quality of graduating education majors in Oregon in the past two years.

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