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MASD, AIU Partner to Address Teacher Shortages

Two-year degree granting mechanism stems attrition and promotes staff

By Adam Reinherz
The Tube City Almanac
March 22, 2024
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(File photo, “School Supplies,” by Nick Amoscato, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

McKeesport Area School District is responding to a teacher shortage by investing in its staff.

School board members have approved an agreement with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit to participate in the BridgeUP program. Designed in partnership with Point Park University and BloomBoard, the two-year program enables education professionals who currently hold associate’s degrees to earn a bachelor’s degree in special education.

“We have to think outside of the box of ways to recruit and retain teachers,” Superintendent Tia Wanzo said. Participating in BridgeUP will cost the district $16,500 for each person who completes the program.

Across the commonwealth, districts are facing increased teacher shortages. According to Penn State University’s Center for Evaluation & Policy Analysis, during 2022-23, 7.7 percent of teachers — or 9,587 — left their positions across the state.

(Courtesy Allegheny Intermediate Unit)

During 2022, Pennsylvania welcomed only 5,101 newly certified teachers. Districts and students are facing a dire forecast, Penn State researchers noted.

McKeesport and other area districts — including Duquesne City, Wilkinsburg and Sto-Rox face additional hurdles — as the four are among the six poorest within Pennsylvania’s 500 districts.

Pennsylvania’s poorest districts experience “substantially greater” teacher attrition, noted Penn State researchers: “Districts with arguably the most students in need of a well-qualified and stable cadre of teachers are the least able to offer children this valuable resource.”

Wanzo said she’s noticed both the number of teachers leaving and a decline in applications: “I think that the pandemic did some of that, people just went in different directions.”

Programs like BuildUp are a necessary response, she continued.

“Recruiting your own and building your own team within your district is the right approach,” Wanzo said. “To assist someone that's already working with us, to acknowledge that we like the work that they're doing and we'd like to support them as they take their next step in their education, is an easy one.”

Adam Reinherz is a freelance writer. He can be reached at adam.reinherz@gmail.com.

Originally published March 22, 2024.

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