Indiana education officials working with colleges to address teacher shortage

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — With the start of school just a few weeks away, Indiana education leaders are working to address the state’s teacher shortage.

The Indiana Department of Education is working with some colleges and universities to fill more teaching jobs.

Indiana is struggling to get teachers into classrooms, according to data released earlier this year. Part of the problem is a lack of college graduates entering the field.

“About 1 in 6 students who start an education program in Indiana actually end up in an Indiana classroom,” said Holly Lawson, deputy communications director for the Indiana Department of Education. “Only 1 in 6.”

The state particularly needs more teachers of color, Lawson said. About 6% of the new teachers in Indiana come from diverse backgrounds, she explained.

“It’s very clear that we have some work to do,” Lawson said.

State officials are looking at new ways to improve the teacher pipeline in Indiana. One of those is a new program run by Ivy Tech Community College and Marian University that involves students getting their associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees within three to four years after high school to pursue careers in education.

“We were able to freeze tuition this year,” said Ivy Tech Provost Kara Monroe. “And we’re including books in the cost of tuition for all students this year. So this is a great time if you want to be a teacher to come back to school.”

Students in the program can begin classes in high school and earn the three degrees at a total cost of no more than $45,000.

Officials hope to enroll 100 students this fall for the program’s launch and eventually have 500 per year.

“We want those teachers to be much greater in number, especially in the high-needed areas – special ed., science, etc.,” said Daniel Elsener, president of Marian University. “And we want them to be from diverse backgrounds.”

IDOE is optimistic these efforts, combined with an increase in teacher pay, will turn things around.

“I think we’re taking positive steps. We’re working to build up the value of education in our communities,” Lawson said.

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