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More people are renewing NH teaching credentials, but unions say vacancies persist

Bags, jackets and raincoats hang on both sides of the hallway. Colorful art made by the kindergarten classes is plastered on the walls. At the end of the hall is a classroom with open doors.
Michelle Liu

This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.

New Hampshire saw a high number of teacher license renewals this year, the Department of Education reported this month, arguing the state is making gains amid a teacher shortage.

There were 8,154 renewals of education credentials in 2023, the third highest amount in the last decade, according to the department.

New Hampshire teachers must renew their licenses every three years, meaning the group that renewed this year is not the same as the group last year, when there were 8,929 renewals. But over the last three years, the state renewed a total 25,622 credentials, the department said, which is a higher three-year total than in the previous two three-year blocks.

Department officials say the high renewal rate suggests conditions are improving for hiring. The state’s “critical shortage list” – the number of school job categories the state deems in short supply – has dropped from 50 out of 54 in 2022 to 21 out of 54 in 2023, the department said.

“Although there are reports of teacher shortages throughout the country, New Hampshire is showing favorable trends with the largest three-year cohort of educator renewals in the past 12 years,” said Commissioner Frank Edelblut in a statement.

But Megan Tuttle, president of the National Education Association of New Hampshire, a teachers union, said the numbers do not represent the experience of schools and staff on the ground, and argued relying on them is misleading.

Teachers can hold multiple certifications for different subjects, potentially inflating the total, Tuttle said. And some educators may have chosen to renew their credentials even though they are stepping away from their teaching jobs in order to keep options open, she said.

“A certification or a license doesn’t necessarily correlate to a body in the classroom or in the school,” she said.

Edelblut, in his statement, noted that the state still needs special education teachers and paraprofessionals, who provide additional support to students.

“We understand there are still some challenges in filling certain teaching positions, in particular special education and paraprofessionals, but this new data is both promising and beneficial in preemptively combating the teacher shortage crisis seen elsewhere,” Edelblut said.

Tuttle said math and science teachers are also in short supply – a long-term trend – and that this year she has heard districts say they are struggling to find social studies teachers. And the shortages continue to affect teaching conditions in general, she added.

“They’re telling me that classroom sizes are increasing, that they’re having to send kids to (the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School) because they don’t have teachers to teach certain classes, so they can’t offer them,” she said. “Schedules are being changed because they don’t have the teachers to teach.”

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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