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Teacher shortages in South Carolina cause classes to be packed

Mrs. Fuller teaches yearbook and US history at  Summerville High School.

Mrs. Fuller teaches yearbook and US history at Summerville High School.

Colby Shirey

Mrs. Fuller teaches yearbook and US history at Summerville High School.

Colby Shirey

Colby Shirey

Mrs. Fuller teaches yearbook and US history at Summerville High School.

Teacher shortages in South Carolina cause classes to be packed

January 17, 2019

The issue

In the 2018-2019 school year, there are limited teachers in South Carolina. Students are packed into classrooms that cannot comfortably hold a high number of people, which is causing teachers to leave.

The average amount of students in a class two years ago was 18, but now some class sizes around the state have gone up to even 40 students in a class. The ratio in highschool of students-to-teachers is now 24:1 (information found here).

“I do feel that sometimes there are too many kids in class because I can’t give each kid the same amount of time,” Mrs. Bedard, a biology teacher here at Summerville High school, stated.

The average annual pay for teachers is lower than the Southeastern average. According Greenville News, roughly 6,705 teachers have left their positions in South Carolina in the past year.

By the 2027-2028 school year, South Carolina schools are estimated to be short of close to 6,000 teachers. That includes guidance counselors and other specialists. Parents are becoming nervous for the futures of their children in the education system.

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The response

Former teacher Elizabeth Walen described to The Post and Courier that a shift in education from individualized learning towards focusing more on test preparation made teaching no longer fun for her. Teachers feel that training classes and meetings are getting in the way of their time to be planning and deciding what is best for their students.

“Some teachers feel like they work all day and don’t have an unencumbered planning period,” Mrs. Plane said, who teaches Leadership and AP literature at Summerville High school.  

In the 90’s, teachers were scarce in special education and a few other teaching fields. Now there is a lack of teachers in every division, ranging from art and music to math and science.

“They’re so tied up and worried about all the paperwork that needs to be done that they’re unable to actually do the job that they applied for, which is educating children,” said Natasha Jefferson, the mother of an 8th grader in the Charleston area who is often taught by substitutes, in an interview with Post and Courier.

Teachers are receiving poor wages and it is causing them to leave. School districts are turning to other states, other countries, and other careers to fill the positions that have been abandoned.

“I know there’s always a chance that I might have to take on extra classes if we don’t have enough people to work,” Mrs. Plane said.

Poor rural districts are being hit particularly hard because of the swelling of class rooms. Many students are being taught by first year teachers and not veteran teachers that have way more experience.

“I feel like when teachers come in their first year, there’s not a lot of training and I think it has something to do with the training they receive in college,” Mrs. Bedard said, “I don’t know if they have enough real world experience… I feel like we should look at are teaching curriculum for colleges and maybe insert more opportunities in a classroom instead of studying a college class.”

Teachers are deserting schools, and it’s going to take a lot more than just higher wages to get them back. It is difficult to teach when they are also wrangling classes with to many students and also dealing with other responsibilities in the classroom.

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