Shortage left Petersburg 6th grader without math teacher for 9 weeks

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PETERSBURG, Va. -- There is a shortage of math teachers at a school where a majority of students didn't pass the math SOL last year.

Lawren Roy Taylor was compelled to reach out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers  for help with issues at his nephew's school,  Peabody Middle School.

Taylor expects to receive texts and phone calls from his nephew every day after school.

“If he has a problem with his homework he will text me…it makes me feel good that he knows he can rely on me,” Taylor. “They don't have a math teacher, it's going on 9 weeks and they are falling so far behind,” Taylor said.

His nephew is in sixth grade at Peabody Middle School, and he started the school year with a substitute math teacher.

CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit uncovered state data that shows just 44 percent of sixth graders at the school passed the math SOL test last year.

“What has he been telling you about math?” Hipolit asked Taylor.

“That they're not learning anything. They're being given work to do, but they're not being taught how to do the work,” Taylor responded.

Hipolit took his concerns straight to Petersburg City Schools.

“Less and less folks are heading into the field of math,” said Cyndee Blount, the Chief Academic Officer for Petersburg City Schools.

At the time, Blount confirmed two of the school’s 12 math teachers were substitutes, and she pointed out that the state has a critical shortage of math teachers statewide.

But, Blount said the system has safeguards in place to make sure students who have substitute teachers receive the education they’re supposed to receive.

“We have principals that review lesson plans every week, not only for our subs, but for every teacher in our building to make sure the lesson that is available is the very best for our children,” Blount said.

Blount said some of the substitutes are working toward a provisional license with the state, and they receive mentoring from more veteran teachers.

Hipolit found out the percentage of teachers in Petersburg with just a provisional license is three times the state average, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

“Seems like a double whammy there…if you're struggling to get accreditation, but yet you can't bring in qualified full-time teachers, and you've got subs there how are you going to get there?” Hipolit asked Blount.

“It goes back to investing in the people in your building, making sure they feel supported,” Blount said.

“What about these children?  Nine weeks, approximately, and they haven't been taught no math?  Math is essential.  So where do you leave these children?  You're leaving them behind,” Taylor said.

Since Hipolit spoke with Blount, the school system told her they hired a permanent licensed teacher for Taylor’s nephew’s class.