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Vermont Teachers Face Demographic Challenge

Over the course of the next ten years, more than half of all Vermont teachers are expected to retire.

To help deal with this demographic change, Vermont’s teachers union will ask lawmakers to adopt several proposals to encourage more young people to enter the education workforce.

According to a national report released several years ago, Vermont has one of the oldest group of teachers of any state in the country.  It’s estimated that more than half of the state’s teachers will retire by 2019.  This means that roughly 4,000 new teachers will be needed over the coming decade to fill this gap.

Martha Allen is the president of the state’s teacher union – the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association.

She says replacing thousands of teachers in a relatively brief period of time is a major challenge and she hopes to find ways to encourage more young people to enter the teaching profession.

“For instance a mathematician or an engineer type who might want to teach science or math and figures if he or she goes into the private sector or something else they might make a lot more money,” said Allen. “So we want to try to make it more attractive for those folks.”

"It is very difficult to pay back college loans, as we all know." - Vt. NEA President Martha Allen discussing the need for a loan forgiveness program for new teachers

Allen says her group will ask lawmakers to support a plan to forgive the student debt of people who become teachers and agree to teach in Vermont for at least five years.

“Loan forgiveness would be a big thing,” said Allen. “It’s very difficult to pay back college loans, as we all know, and if you’re starting at a lower salary than some other professions it makes it even more challenging.”

Student and teacher assessments are also on Allen’s agenda. She wants teachers to work with local school board officials to create a comprehensive evaluation system for students. She wants something that goes beyond just using standardized tests.

“That’s how you measure growth, but the assessments need to be teacher or district developed so that there’s something that you’re actually measuring  -- what’s being taught and what’s being learned,” said Allen. “And some of the cookie-cutter type things and out of other textbooks and such don’t really do that.”

Allen wants a similar approach for teacher assessments. She supports a locally developed system that does more than evaluate teachers based on the test scores of their students.