Urban schools had the highest percentage of teachers with non-traditional preparation hired in the past year (18 percent compared to 13 percent in rural schools and 8 percent in suburban schools). It is a chronic inequality: urban students have access to fewer experienced instructors in classrooms, and their education suffers.
The practical, effective solution
Unlike these failed solutions, virtual teachers can alleviate the main challenges to staffing classrooms:
Almost a quarter (21.8 percent) of schools surveyed by the AAEE cited their undesirable location and demographics as a reason for their difficulty hiring teachers. For virtual teachers, this is a non-issue—they can provide instruction from anywhere in the United States. Moreover, they can move between schools and districts freely. One virtual teacher can handle a class in a rural school in Montana at 10:00 a.m., another in Newark, New Jersey at 1:00 p.m., and yet another in Texas at 3:00 p.m. This flexibility can go a long way toward relieving the teacher supply crunch schools have been battling.
The AAEE survey found that almost a third (31.5 percent) of districts hired teachers who did not have traditional preparation, because of a shortage of education majors in colleges. Virtual teaching allows schools to draw from a national pool of qualified candidates rather than being limited to the area around them. Schools could even choose teachers with expertise outside the schools’ usual curriculums, giving students expanded access to elective courses.
Our students deserve stable, equitable learning to set them up for future success. Rather than resorting to outlandish solutions, which may only deepen the inequity and inequality that has plagued schools, school officials should accelerate their switch to utilizing virtual teachers. Either for in-person or virtual classrooms, the talented virtual teachers standing by across the country can help solve the teacher shortage and usher in better days for schools and districts.
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