Arizona still faces significant shortage of qualified teachers, survey finds

Jan 6, 2021, 4:05 AM
(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona schools are still dealing with a significant shortage of qualified teachers, but there are signs the situation is improving despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

Nearly three-quarters of Arizona’s teacher positions remained vacant or were filled by people who didn’t meet the state’s standard certification requirements as of December, according to data released Monday by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.

The ASPAA has been tracking Arizona’s K-12 teacher shortage with twice-yearly surveys for six years.

“It’s just concerning that it continues and we see little progress, and ultimately that impacts our students in Arizona and our future in Arizona,” Justin Wing, data analyst for the group, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

The latest survey shows that the shortage has improved since the start of the fall semester even though hundreds of teachers have left their jobs because of COVID-19 concerns.

According to the survey, 26.9% of Arizona’s available positions were filled with teachers meeting standard certification requirements as of last month, an improvement from 23.2% in August 2020 and 21.8% in December 2019.

The vacancy rate has also gone down over the course of the current school year, but it’s higher than it was before the pandemic hit. The new survey showed 26.6% of teacher positions as vacant, lower than the 28.1% figure from August 2020 but above the 24.4% from December 2019.

As of December, 1,360 certified Arizona teachers separated employment during the 2020-21 year, with 501 of them citing COVID-19 as the primary reason, according to the new survey. That was up from 751 departures and 326 citing COVID-19 in August. Last school year’s survey showed 987 separations by December 2019.

The new report also showed that 46.5% of the teachers on the job in Arizona don’t meet the standard certification requirements, nearly 6 percentage points lower than a year earlier.

That figure was 50.1% in August and 52.4% in December 2019. Nearly 500 fewer teachers who didn’t meet standard certification requirements held positions in December 2020 than December 2019.

The December survey included information provided by 200 districts and charter schools, 55 more than participated in August.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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Arizona still faces significant shortage of qualified teachers, survey finds