Welcome Back Teachers! It’s that time of year when teacher appreciation meme’s pop up on social media thanking them for the upcoming year, and pictures of students holding signs of the grade they will attend are posted. Each new year can be a joyous occasion; parents and teachers alike look forward to the upcoming school year. Or so it seems.
At a time when the Maryland State Department of Education begins implementing the early childhood “Blueprint”, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) are shutting down Pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) classrooms in Title 1 schools and placing those tenured veteran teachers in areas where they are uncertified. The Blueprint objectives are to provide high quality pre-kindergarten and expand access for low to moderate income families. It also increases the number of Judy Centers, family support centers and the number of early childhood educators.
Yet, in an attempt to resolve the teacher shortage, AACPS closed some pre-K classrooms and placed its pre-school and early childhood teachers into areas where they are uncertified. The county school board began cutting classrooms and positions a week before school started. Having low-income families on pre-K waiting lists when there are available classrooms elsewhere truly appears to be a discriminatory practice. The early childhood policy is that all students must attend their home school in order to attend pre-K. Title 1 schools cannot accept children outside its own area even though a school that is less than a mile away has a waiting list for pre-K students. The excuse that there are no classrooms for pre-K is totally inadequate because pre-K classrooms are actually being eliminated. As a Baltimore County resident who is a grandmother to children who will eventually enroll in Anne Arundel County Schools, AACPS needs to make room in its Title 1 schools and place pre-K teachers in those classrooms.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools webpage states that the school district is “to elevate all students… eliminating all gaps.” It appears that the school board and the pre-K admission policy is egregious in not following its own motto to eliminate the gaps for black, brown and Latino families who reside in these communities.
Several articles about the teacher shortage crisis in Maryland and the nation point out how States scramble to fill teacher positions due to thousands leaving the profession. The article titled: “Maryland State Education Leaders Seek Long Term Solutions to Teacher Shortages” by Tim Tooten dated August 23, 2022 discusses and highlights the issues to hire teachers for the school year. The article reports that the Maryland State Board of Education permits “school districts to waive certification rules to keep more teachers on the job”. However, this practice becomes a double edge sword for teachers and students where new hires and teachers for example in Anne Arundel County, have to teach in areas without the proper certification. Closing pre-K and “cutting” classrooms to the neediest communities does not fulfill the Maryland Blueprint objectives. Who are the ones most affected by this major incompetence? Students that include the most vulnerable –minority early childhood students.
Waiving teacher certifications, and shifting veteran teachers leads to low morale among teachers who are already overworked, underpaid, and lack the resources needed to teach in an area that they are not certified. Teachers leave the profession as I did in 1983 for these reasons. It’s time for all Maryland Public Schools, especially AACPS to get out of the mindset of the 1970’s and ‘80’s, increase teacher pay, create long-term solutions to hiring qualified certified teachers, and expand pre-K in Title 1 schools so that early childhood education is equitable for all.
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