Waiting 45 minutes on hold during a lunch break and having to hang up without ever gettting through.
Months elapsing before an application is approved, even after submitting all the necessary documents.
When she reaches out to the state with follow-up inquiries, she said, she’s had to wait weeks, sometimes months, before she receives a response.
“Their phone system went silent for me. I then called (again), and it went on hold for 30 minutes … I remember going through the application process and at one point just giving up.”
These are comments in today’s Star-Ledger concerning prospective teachers’ attempts to get the necessary paperwork done to get certified by the New Jersey State Department of Education. While alarm over nationwide teacher shortages is overblown, there are indeed needs in specific areas like special education, STEM, and English Language Learner instruction.
So how is the NJ DOE addressing this problem of helping potential teachers through the certification process?
Here’s how: failing to even answer the phones or reply to emails. When the Ledger asked the DOE what it was doing, a spokesman said the agency “continually examines areas of opportunity to increase responsiveness in a timely and productive manner.” When asked to quantify the backlog and the timetable for resolution, “state officials did not immediately clarify how many certificates are in the backlog nor provide a specific timeline over when issues would be resolved.”
Suzanne McCotter, dean of the School of Education at The College of New Jersey, a Mercer County school that has a well-regarded teacher preparation program, said, “the biggest problem is communication … our applicants who have problems are often on hold for an hour when they try to call and ask questions, and they may get different answers if they call more than once.”
Then there are the fees. In order to receive teacher certification (a requirement in traditional district schools) and take the attendant certification tests, new graduates must spend hundreds of dollars in fees, surely not an enticement to going through with the process. Said one student teacher, “We’re college students going into a profession where the salary isn’t that pretty, I’m not going to be rolling in dough once I graduate,” she added. “Having to pay back for these assessments or school materials or gas money, and then student loans, it’s just another thing to add to the list.”
Why aren’t DOE staffers in the certification department answering phones or replying to emails?
It’s anyone’s guess, just like onlookers can’t figure out why the Murphy Administration’s DOE doesn’t bother following regulations for determining whether charter schools increase segregation. Meanwhile, potential teachers in hard-to-fill positions wait on hold.