Governor Burgum approves emergency action for schools experiencing teacher shortage

Critics of the policy say the move puts too much pressure on student teachers who would now be running their own classrooms.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 6:47 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -

Students start going back to school in parts of the region in just two weeks. Some schools are still dealing with a teacher shortage which, on August 8th, Governor Doug Burgum declared an emergency.

As part of the move, student teachers will be allowed to lead their own classrooms without a license.

While the board and Governor Burgum acknowledge this policy is not a long-term solution, some in the education field are pushing back.

Back in July, the Education Standards and Practices board petitioned the governor’s office to amend the rules regarding student teachers being a teacher of record. However, there would still be requirements for student teachers to meet before that happens.

Executive Director of the ESPB, Rebecca Pitkin, says universities would have to provide schools with a letter of recommendation for the student teacher and include positive feedback from the student’s previous classroom experience, the student would still need to complete their necessary coursework, and the school districts would have to provide an on-site guide as well as prove they could not find a qualified teacher with a license to fill the position.

Governor Doug Burgum says he approved the request made by the ESPB in order to avoid overcrowded classrooms and potentially cancelling classes all together.

Critics of the policy say the move puts too much pressure on student teachers, who now would be running their own classrooms.

“If a teacher gets off on the wrong foot, it is very difficult to keep them in the profession, so this band-aid approach to solving the teacher shortage may actually exacerbate the teacher shortage rather than solving it and that’s a big concern for us,” says ND United President, Nick Archuleta.

However, Burgum is it’s just part of the plan to fix the teacher shortage.

“This is not a long-term fix,” assures Burgum.

He adds, “We’re going be pulling together, by executive order, a state-wide task force to try and address this issue of how can we make sure that we have high quality education at the right price, at the right cost, at the right efficiency and that we’ve got high quality teachers teaching in every classroom.”

Both Archuleta and Governor Burgum agree that more needs to be done to have a long-term fix to the teacher shortage and that it’s not only on school districts to find a solution.

“This is on communities to make sure that we can attract and retain people in our state to do these important jobs,” says Burgum.

Part of that retention may also take a complete culture shift.

“About 91% of them, who have either left the profession or considered leaving the profession, have cited the political discourse around education as a contributing factor and a major contributing factor,” explains Archuleta.

There are still a lot of questions about how this plan of student teachers as main teachers could work, including- whether local schools will adopt the idea and whether these student teachers will get paid like regular staff.

West Fargo Public Schools told us in a statement, quote: West Fargo Public Schools has and will continue to recruit quality educators for the openings we have in our teaching positions. We believe deeply in student teachers having quality, cooperating instructors and would only use the ESPB emergency rules regarding student teachers as a last resort. We would not adopt a blanket policy, but like our approach to personalizing instruction for our learners, we would only use this route for student teachers that possess the competency of skills and dispositions to ensure quality instruction for our learners and a productive experience for themselves as future educators.