A Student’s Perspective on the Teacher Shortage

<p>Source: Canva Graphic</p>

Source: Canva Graphic

Senior year: the height of any teen coming-of-age story worth its snuff. I came into this year with high expectations, inflated by decades of high school media being shoved down my throat, promises from older friends and family members assuring me that “it’s the most fun of my life,” and hope that I might have a “normal school year” for once.

I was sorely mistaken. 

Coming back to school this year has possibly been the hardest yet. The normal joy and excitement for the year have been replaced with dread and anxiety because of the looming topic of the teacher shortage. 

This year, the national teacher shortage has made headlines everywhere and school districts all over the country have been grappling with the effects of this shortage. Due to a multitude of reasons, more teachers have been quitting and there haven’t been enough certified to replace them. This issue has become exacerbated in lower-income schools, where teacher retention is a constant issue. 

I am a student at Upper Darby High School, and am normally proud of the school I attend, defending it to anyone who gives me a side-eye when I reveal where I go. However, recent reactions to this shortage have changed my opinions vastly. Our school board has decided to cut any class with fewer than 25 students rostered for it. They have also installed a ‘credit cap’, or a certain amount of credits a student is allowed to take before they are forced to stop taking classes.

This credit cap would require most students to cease their education at Upper Darby at the end of their junior year, as many accumulate the required credits quickly, typically gaining high school credit while in middle school or through AP courses. This is getting rid of most students’ senior years, and all the activities and memories associated with them – destroying their senior prom, senior skip day, homecoming, senior pranks, sports’ senior nights, and so many more events. These are core senior year memories, ones that most graduates look upon with fondness, and Upper Darby wishes to get rid of the possibility of making them. 

In addition to this, this has interfered with students involved in career education programs. These programs make it possible for students to have experience with educating inside a school or working in a hospital while in high school. Without a senior year, many students will be robbed of this invaluable experience. 

Due to its sheer number of students, UDHS has always had a wide course selection. However, by cutting off any classes with less than 25 students, this diversity immediately dies away. Most higher-level and specialized courses are in smaller classes , as only a select few students are interested in the subject. Canceling these courses stops a student's exposure to new subjects that could influence their college major or career path. Not having an idea of your goals is detrimental to students. 

Without specialized courses and APs, we are left without our edge over students from expensive private schools or the public schools on the Main Line when it comes time for college admissions. These schools have better funding and better names and, thus, better chances at making it into top colleges and programs. We deserve just as much of a chance at getting into schools as everyone else. We already have fierce enough competition when it comes to being seen by colleges, and not having APs and high-level courses makes this even more difficult. 

Upper Darby’s solution to the problem of offering fewer advanced courses and early graduation is telling students to take dual enrollment classes at Delaware County Community College. While the school board initially proposed to pay for the classes, materials, and transport to these classes, this proposition immediately fell short and students have to fund their own classes. This is ridiculous to expect from sixteen and seventeen-year-old children. Dual enrollment should be an opportunity for those who wish to use it, not the only option for students who wish to go beyond the Board-imposed credit limit. Many students in Upper Darby School District are low income - up to 60% - which eliminates the ability for many to take classes beyond the arbitrary limit. There also is no guarantee the credits the students pay for will be transferred to their future university or college. 

For a district that preaches opportunity, unity, and excellence at any chance it gets, Upper Darby certainly doesn’t care about the opportunities it’s taking away from its students, the disunity it’s causing around the community, and the distinct lack of excellence they’re showing. Students shouldn’t have to be more fearful of their ability to compete against others in college applications, or be forced to go into graduation too early, confused, and virtually without support. Upper Darby must do better for its students and community before more members become just as outraged as I am. 

My senior year has been wrecked by this decision. My family was lied to about payment and transport for dual enrollment classes, leading me to uproot our schedules and routines to accommodate a class that I was informed wouldn’t be paid for far past the withdrawal date. It has caused undue stress and anxiety during a year that is often stressful and anxiety-ridden.

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I deserve better, and my fellow students deserve better. We should be allowed to be proud of our school, not complaining about it every second we get. Upper Darby, please do better for those who rely upon you. 

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