School districts nationwide face unprecedented teacher shortages, with thousands of classrooms unstaffed as the school year begins. With no end in sight to this crisis, Stride Learning Solutions is working with districts across the country to fill instructional gaps with innovative teaching and learning models.
On September 15, 2022, Stride Learning Solutions’ Rick Perkins, VP of Innovative Instructional Models, and Laura Spezio, National Account Executive, participated in a webinar moderated by eSchool News Editor-at-Large, Kevin Hogan, to address teacher shortages and viable solutions to meet immediate needs. The following Q & A provides a snapshot of their discussion. To dig deeper, you can view the entire webinar on-demand.
Kevin Hogan: Do you see specific areas of the country where there are greater challenges with teacher shortages?
Rick: It’s significantly widespread. We’re engaging with districts across the nation of all sizes in all time zones. Everybody is experiencing teacher shortages to some degree.
Laura: Most of the need tends to be around the core content areas, and in a lot of cases, electives are not being offered when schools can’t find teachers. It’s one thing to fill the need for having an adult in the room, but that instructional expertise is missing. That’s where Stride Learning Solutions is helping tofill the gaps.
KH: Let’s talk about solutions. Can you talk about a fully remote set up vs. a hybrid set up?
Laura: When we’re talking to districts, we start by asking “what is your goal?” It usually starts with “We need to ensure students are successful.” Together, we configure a model that works for each district’s needs. For example, one district we work with has facilitators in the classroom to support the students in-person, while we provide a highly qualified online instructor. Instruction is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities where the teacher understands and is responsive to the needs of every student.
Rick: This school year, we’re hearing from every district leader we talk to that they are working toward a return to normalcy. They want the kids to have an experience that replicates what they had prior to the pandemic. The problem is that we’re now missing teachers so they’re having a difficult time returning to that model.
Our blended model is helping districts create a more traditional learning experience with a caring adult in the room and one of our instructional experts facilitating learning online. In some cases, we are using our [curriculum] content. In others, it’s the district’s curriculum.
KH: There are institutional challenges in some states in terms of not wanting to engage in new models like this. Do you see that as being one of the biggest challenges –one of perception and human behavior –when it comes to the administration of schools?
Rick: I think you have that any time you’re doing anything that’s new or outside of the norm. Education is one of those unique industries in which we’re all experts –we’ve all had at least 13 years of experience. We have a concept of what school is supposed to look like. In 2006, 2007, when I would speak at conferences talking about online professional development I’d be asked questions like, “How is it possible to put physical education online?” And those questions don’t come any more. You’re always going to have obstacles and it’s up to courageous school leaders, school boards, and legislatures to break down those barriers and reinvent what we’re doing. Let’s build this around student needs.
KH: Are students more likely to go along with this sortof set up than the teachers and administrators who always remember what happened before the pandemic?
Laura: Students today have access to technology. They grew up with technology. They are well equipped to join a virtual class, to ask questions. They are already inherently comfortable with this technology. We’re always concerned about students socially, emotionally, in the classroom. That’s why do look to have the classroom facilitator there co-facilitating with the teacher [when districts are implementing a hybrid model]. It all comes down to how we support the students and these models have that built in.
KH: If a district needed teachers today, how would you help them?
Laura: We’d begin the conversation by asking what are your needs? What model are you envisioning? We’d work to develop a clear scope that works for the district and begin to work toward milestones. We will get teachers in front of students as soon as we know they have what they need to be successful.
Rick: It is model and scale dependent. We have to look at scope and infrastructure considerations and move through a checklist to be sure we are ready. In some situations, we can stand up a program in just days.
KH: Are you coming across any requirements for virtual teachers to be in the state?
Rick: It’s fairly similar across states. Departments of Education understand the situation [the schools] are in and many have loosened up some of the requirements such as allowing state certification reciprocity and extensions on one-year contracts. Stride Learning Solutions isn’t confined to geographic space. We have a national scope and we’ve been able to leverage reciprocity to get teachers certified where they are needed. Our teachers have gone through our comprehensive virtual teacher training and onboarding with veteran staff. We walk into relationships with districts with highly qualified, trained teachers and we work with the districts to ensure our teachers are compliant on regulatory training required to work in that district. The ongoing professional development that we provide is geared around producing expert virtual teachers, and that’s something that we’re uniquely positioned to do very well.
KH: What is the youngest age group you provide teachers for?
Rick: We have a tremendous suite of courses and a sound instructional model for K-5. That was the largest area of growth across the industry through the pandemic. A lot of families came out of the pandemic realizing thatthis works well for them in their home. Their kids are making tremendous strides. I think we’ll see this area grow over time as parents see this as not only a viable solution but the best solution for their families.
Is your child ready for the future?
Make sure your student is ready for life after high school.
Meet a Leader in online education.
See why over two million students have chosen Stride K12-powered schools.