The teacher pool is getting smaller, and naturally, is getting filled with less qualified candidates, according to public school superintendents. In The Gallup 2017 Survey of K–12 School District Superintendents, 67 percent of respondents said the quantity of new teacher candidates is decreasing and 39 percent said the quality is also declining.
When it comes to recruiting and retaining effective teachers, large percentages of superintendents from suburban districts rated that they were still very effective (46 and 60 percent, respectively), but city and rural leaders are not faring as well. Though city superintendents rank themselves higher for recruiting educators, they are on par with rural superintendents for retaining them.
With 81 percent of superintendents reporting that improving the academic performance of underprepared students is their biggest challenge, finding ways to bring in more qualified teachers is a priority.
Thankfully, technologies such as virtual reality and collaboration software can assist with the training and recruiting of better teachers.
VR Preps Teachers for the Classroom
Virtual reality can be more than just a source of entertainment. For student-teachers, it can be a vital training ground. Researchers at the University at Buffalo created a VR platform that simulates difficult student behaviors in the classroom to give future teachers opportunities to react in a safe setting.
Their research also gives prospective teachers more time in the classroom than they would normally receive, thus giving them even more prep time for the real thing.
“We have this interactive, true, authentic classroom environment that allows teachers to practice their teaching,” Richard Lamb, a lead researcher on the training project and an associate professor and director of the Neurocognition Science Laboratory, tells EdTech.
Virtual Tools Bring Better Teachers to Remote Schools
Remote school districts looking to attract better teachers might just need to offer them a virtual gig.
It doesn’t get much more remote than Kodiak Island Borough School District, which is separated from mainland Alaska. Recruiting talented teachers there, however, is no longer an issue thanks to videoconferencing technology.
Using videoconferencing systems, cloud-based collaboration learning platforms and satellite-based broadband communications, district leaders have given students access to better teachers and more diverse classes, EdTech reports.
Rural districts in the mainland U.S. can also hire better teachers through virtual means. For example, Pen Argyl Area School District in Northampton County, Penn., offers a plethora of online courses from teachers outside of the district.
“We’re finding virtual learning to be a very useful option for giving our students access to new opportunities,” says Mike Peck, PAASD’s district coordinator of online and blended learning, in an EdTech article. “It fills niche areas that we wouldn’t have been able to service in the past.”
Virtual teachers were also the solution for a teacher shortage in Georgia’s Bibb County School District, Education Week reports. The district hired 10 virtual teachers to fill vacant teaching positions and ensure their students were still getting a quality education.