Having a qualified teacher in the classroom is essential for student and school performance. And a recent survey by the state Department of Education proves it.

Of the Louisiana schools with an F grade, 33 percent of teachers are either uncertified or aren’t teaching in their field. Compare that to schools with an A grade, where 19 percent of teachers are uncertified or not teaching in their field.

Released last month, the 2017-18 Educator Workforce Report shows that failing schools need experienced teachers the most. But the real challenge lies in getting those teachers to work there.

Superintendent of Education John White said math and science are the hardest subjects to fill, even though are the most needed. The survey stated that 12 percent of math courses and 13 percent of science classes are taught by teachers who aren’t working in their field. Eight percent of classes in math and science have uncertified teachers.

If we want failing schools to improve, they need quality teachers who are certified and can teach the most important subjects.

Last month, the state education department announced that teachers can apply for tuition-free college classes for the upcoming spring semester. Priority will be given to those wanting to teach science, technology, engineering and math.

Debbie Meaux, Louisiana Association of Educators president, brought up a good point. She told the Advocate that teachers at F-rated schools “should have the first shot” at the tuition-free college courses.

Louisiana has seen fewer teachers over the years, which presents problems for schools. Louisiana’s public school teachers also make below the Southern regional average.

As we await the Nov. 8 release of public school letter grades for the 2018 school year, officials should take note of the fact that something needs to be done to attract and keep certified teachers here.

Improving a failing school won’t happen overnight. But as long as these schools lack certified teachers, along with math and science educators, this cycle will repeat itself year after year.

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