Marion County school district tops state percentage of out-of-field teachers.
Bobbie Davila, a new teacher at College Park Elementary School, who will be teaching 3rd grade English and Social Studies, puts a box of books for her students on a shelf in her classroom at College Park Elementary School in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, August 8, 2023. School starts on Thursday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.
The growing number of teacher vacancies in Florida is leading school districts to place more instructors in classrooms where they are teaching subjects in which they are not certified just to fill the gap, according to the Florida Department of Education. In Marion County, the percentage of teachers working in an out-of-field assignment tops the state average, according to the school district.
Less than 10% of courses statewide are being taught by educators out-of-field, according to the FLDOE’s report called “Identification of High Demand Teacher Needs for 2023-24.” That translates to 55,405 out of 587,607 courses being taught by uncertified teachers.
In Marion County, 10.33% of teachers are working in an out-of-field assignment, according to Marion County Public Schools.
The FLDOE projected 8,888 staff vacancies statewide for the 2023-24 school year, a significant increase from the last school year. On Sept. 1, 2022, the state reported 5,547 teacher vacancies.
In Marion County, there are an estimated 150 teacher vacancies. The school district said its plans to expand, adding new school wings and entire buildings, will likely increase the number of vacancies as more positions are needed to accommodate expected growth.
The FLDOE noted a vacancy does not necessarily represent a teacher vacancy. It could be a scenario in which a teacher is covering two subjects and the district therefore reported two vacancies. This means the projected openings could be higher than the actual vacancies.
The state report identified the top areas where more teachers are needed, based on the percentage of instructors teaching out of their field and projected teacher vacancies. These areas include Exceptional Student Education (ESE), English, Science General, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Reading, Science-Physical, Math; and added this year to the list, Tech Education (CTE).
MCPS Director of Public Relations Kevin Christian said the district is also facing vacancies in these same high-demand areas.
“Some classrooms have out-of-area assigned teachers due to the shortage of qualified/certified teachers,” he said, adding that the personnel shortages extend beyond the classroom. “Some of our bus drivers drove double routes because we do not have enough bus drivers,” he said, meaning students may now have later bus schedules as they wait for the second route.
While Elementary Education, at 18.92% and 90,931 completed certifications, is the highest teacher certification rate in the state, in Marion County, the teacher vacancies are being felt particularly in the elementary schools.
The district listed these high-priority schools: Belleview, Emerald Shores, Fessenden, Greenway, Harbour View, Legacy, Oakcrest, Romeo, Stanton-Weirsdale, Shady Hill, and Wyomina Park. Also, Fort King Middle, Lake Weir Middle and High, and Liberty Middle.
Another high-priority school is McIntosh Area School, which is the only FLDOE-listed low-performance school in Marion County because of the failing grade it received in 2022.
To address this growing need for employees, the MCPS Recruitment Department recently held a second Hometown Hiring Career Fair. On Wednesday, July 19, more than 500 people attended career fairs at Fort King Middle, Lake Weir Middle, and Marion Oaks Elementary. Last year’s Career Fair drew around 300 people.
This year, more than 50 people were hired on the spot, the district reported.
“As of today, 26 schools and departments plan to hire teachers, support staff, Marion Afterschool Program workers, and new team members for Custodial, Food Service, and Transportation departments,” Christian said in a press release.
Along with recruiting efforts, MCPS is offering more certification opportunities to future employees as well as current out-of-field teachers and workers.