Days after his graduation last May, Waleid Hassan landed four job interviews. The Metropolitan State University graduate ultimately said yes to a job at Osseo Senior High School teaching geo­metry and Algebra 2. Six months into his first teaching job, Hassan said he loves it.

The test for schools is to figure out how to retain teachers like Hassan. A newly released Minnesota Department of Education report reveals that teachers are increasingly leaving the profession.

Administrators first began to notice the gap in special education and science, but now the openings are showing up in all subject fields, said Gary Amoroso, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. The story is the same nationwide.

"I hear from the superintendents in the state on a yearly basis that it is more challenging to find licensed teachers," he said. "This has turned into an epidemic around the state."

The 2017 version of the Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand report issued Wednesday found a 46 percent increase in the number of teachers leaving the profession since 2008. The education department reports its findings to the Legislature every two years.

Hiring officials surveyed in the report listed a competitive job market and teacher salaries as barriers to retaining teachers, while the number of applicants along with testing and licensing requirements are making it harder to hire them.

New teachers often leave at higher rates, according to the Learning Policy Institute, an education research nonprofit.

Supply and demand

After three years, more than a quarter of Minnesota teachers leave their jobs, and about 15.1 percent leave after the first year, according to the report. In 2015, school districts outside the metro area had more difficulty filling teacher openings; now the problem is statewide.

"It is one thing to recruit teachers; it is a whole other to keep them," Hassan said.

At the same time, there is a 30 percent decrease in people entering the pipeline in teacher preparation programs, Leib Sutcher, research associate at the Learning Policy Institute, said.

"There is a rise in demand as supply is declining," he said.

Over seven years, Minnesota reported a 5.8 percent increase in the number of teachers, with 60,090 teachers in 2016. In that time, student enrollment also increased. Public school enrollment increased by 3.2 percent.

As school districts diversify, the state found a slight increase in the number of newly licensed black teachers over a three-year period but a decrease in white teachers. The state reported that teachers of color add up to 4.3 percent of the state workforce and 7.7 percent of newly licensed teachers.

Hassan, who is of Egyptian descent, is one of seven teachers of color at Osseo High School, said Principal Michael Lehan. Before graduating from Metropolitan State University, Hassan said he was able to be a student teacher at Park Center Senior High School, where he was partnered with a veteran teacher. He still seeks guidance from that teacher today.

Hassan attended a signing event on Monday, where Metro State and Osseo Area Schools formed a partnership to diversify the teacher workforce.

"I want to help students who came from a background like me," he said.

The state survey was required to add a question in 2016 to ask school district and charter school officials if they felt that their student population had a teacher workforce that represented them in diversity and effectiveness. Officials responded that while there was access to teachers for white students, students of color did not have access to effective and diverse teachers. Going along with national trends, the report also found that the population of white students was decreasing.

When asked if teachers were prepared to teach immigrant or refugee students, officials reported that teachers were not as prepared.

Education leaders say that incentives like loan forgiveness and competitive compensation packages will help decrease the shortage down the road.

"The shortage of qualified teachers has gone from an issue, to a problem, to a crisis, in only a few short years," Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said in a statement.

"We are losing too many great teachers because they can't make ends meet, they feel disrespected by politicians and they're incredibly frustrated by excessive testing and other policies that limit their ability to do the jobs they love — teaching students."

Minnesota legislators are looking at ways they can tackle teacher licensure and vacancies, and Amoroso said that education groups are starting to work on a bill.

"Now we have to continue to work together to map out short-term and long-term strategies and solutions," Amoroso said. "It is not going to get fixed overnight."

Beatrice Dupuy • 612-673-1707