The growing teacher shortage: What can we all do?

By Thomas W Tramaglini

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How bad has it really become? 

I recently came across this news story on CBS by Aimee Picchi.

You can read and watch the story here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/americas-new-education-crisis-a-teacher-shortage/

Aimee’s story profiles a growing, yet continual problem in the nation where schools having a harder and harder time finding teachers to fill their positions.  For several reasons, education is constantly losing qualified heroes for our children.

Ingersoll and Purda have a great slide which suggests the real reasons why teachers leave (or never come into) the profession:

Why_Teachers_Leave

An article that Ingersoll and Purda (2008) wrote can be accessed here for more on the status of teaching as a profession: https://www.gse.upenn.edu/pdf/rmi/SSSAE-RMI-2008.pdf

In reading the CBS story by Aimee Picchi, a very interesting section I found particularly interesting and noteworthy is written below:

“The teacher shortage emerged in the wake of the Great Recession, when school districts cut their staffing as funding dried up. But student enrollment has only grown, adding to the pressures on local schools. At the same time, fewer college students are opting to become teachers because of the economics of college debt, said Linda Darling-Hammond, the president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on education policy. 

“There are studies about this that show people choose careers based on the salary in relation to the debt they have from college,” Darling-Hammond said. “In many many states, salaries were frozen and never kept up with inflation.” 

She added: “People can’t stay in a profession where they can’t afford to support their own families.””

We need to think differently

Being a school leader has been one of the most rewarding experiences and perhaps one of the best parts about being a school leader has been the experience of hiring great people who can educate students, so they can accomplish their dreams.

There are plenty of candidates out there, but I would agree with the researchers, as well as Aimee Picchi’s piece, the base of teachers is diminishing.

From my experiences, the problem is complex and there are many reasons for the growing shortage.  For one, in recent years I have seen our teachers take a beating from the pressure of attaining higher test scores.  Also, some teachers have been challenged by a highly programmed learning environment which is standardized thus taking flexibility away from the teacher to customize learning experiences which master teachers artfully design.  Two great reads which not only paint this picture well, but also lead to what to do about it are written by Professor Chris Tienken of Seton Hall University.  I highly recommend both books:

The School Reform Landscape (Tienken & Orlich)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1475802587/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Defying Standardization (Tienken)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N3Z1ZCV/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

And while I would suggest that it has always been my intention as a leader to take teachers’ focus off test scores, policy makers, Boards of Education and communities’ value higher student achievement and school leaders and teachers feel the pressure for sure to produce higher test scores.  Simply put, education isn’t what it used to be.

So, what can we do to solve the teacher shortage?  What can you do?  How can we continue to inspire our children?  Higher pay?  Better benefits?  Privatize schools?

Please share your ideas and start a conversation by posting your ideas to my social media accounts:

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