Florida teacher shortage takes toll on students (includes video story)

As the 2023-2024 school nears its end, the ongoing teacher shortage in South Florida continues to put pressure on schools and administrators as they struggle to fill vacancies while trying to maintain quality education for their students.

A study done by Brown University showed that the nation had over 55,000 teacher vacancies per every 10,000 students. Florida led the nation with the most vacancies, with over 5,000 vacancies within the past year.

Despite efforts to recruit and retain educators, schools continue to struggle to fill these vital roles in the classroom. Broward County Schools Superintendent Dr. Peter Licata spoke on the issue stating that teacher vacancies were “over 200” in an interview with CBS Miami back in August at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Miami Today News reported that Miami-Dade County had around 208 shortages towards the end of the first quarter of the academic year, and as recently as March there were over 70 vacancies in core instructional teacher positions as reported by Local 10.

An American Education Panel 2023 State of the American teacher survey highlighted the top sources of job related stress for teachers as managing student behavior, supporting student academic learning, and administrative work were top sources of job-related stress for teachers.

The major reasons teachers gave for their intention to leave were salary, the number of hours and the stresses and disappointments of the job.

“I do see myself leaving education not because I want to, but because I’m at that point where I don’t make enough money to survive,” said Adam Bernstein, a teacher at MAST Academy FIU. “I love being a teacher, but I’m at the point now where I need to choose a career I can survive on.”

Teachers and administrators said they feel their voices come second to those of local government officials, parents, and students. 

Dr. Andrea Adelman, a clinical associate professor in the Early Childhood Education Program at FIU, said low pay, overwhelming responsibilities and safety concerns are contributing factors.

“We are not paying our teachers for all of the responsibilities we’re giving them,” said Adelman. “They’re now responsible to teach these high stakes tests and if the kids don’t pass, it reflects poorly on them when there’s so many different variables that are in play. But then lastly, you know, schools are war zones. You know, aside from the obvious, our students are becoming more violent. There’s a lot more externalizing behaviors where teachers are getting attacked.”

The teacher shortage has several consequences that impact students and schools, none more significant than the impact on student learning. Larger class sizes and a lack of qualified teachers result in lower academic achievement and reduced educational opportunities for students.

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 44% of students did not start the 2023–24 school year at grade level in at least one academic topic. The Center’s School Pulse Panel results showed that 82% of public schools were providing some sort of tutoring program outside of the regular curriculum.

“I feel like sometimes these students don’t get the one-on-one instruction that they need, “ said Eli Aleman, an interventionist at Pinecrest Glades Academy currently pursuing a career in education. “I’m sure that our school is aware of the situation, but there’s really not much we can do with no one wanting to either work or they’re not being qualified.”

With the school year coming to a close soon schools will have to regroup and strategize as they tackle the issue before the next school year begins in August.

Sebastian Cuervo is a senior majoring in digital journalism with a focus in sports journalism. After his studies, he wishes to pursue a career as an on-air sports analyst.

Jordan Lopez is a Cuban-American digital journalism student who intends to pursue a career as a sports journalist and writer, combining his passions for sports and writing. Lopez currently writes for FanSided’s Predominantly Orange (Denver Broncos) and VerdictMMA (UFC). He hopes his writing informs fans and South Florida residents about their favorite sports teams.

Gloria Selva is a working professional and part-time student who is currently pursuing a B.S. in Communications with a concentration in Digital TV and Multimedia Production. She is focused on advancing her creative abilities and communication skills through formal education and practice. Her ultimate goal is to combine her media expertise and passion for humanities into a career in Television Broadcasting.