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Change the Odds by Resolving the Teacher Shortage

By New Teacher Center — 

We’re in the midst of our first major teacher shortage since the 1990s, and this shortage could soon reach crisis levels in many areas of the country. According to the Learning Policy Institute’s recent study, U.S. classrooms were short approximately 60,000 teachers last year, and that could increase to over 100,000 by 2018 if we don’t do something fast. Although circumstances differ as to type of teacher or number of vacancies, this is a trend across the country and should be a concern for all of us.

A number of factors led us here, including an uptick in demand for teachers, the dent left in the teaching population by retiring baby boomers and far fewer candidates entering the profession. One of the biggest and most alarming contributing factors is the large number of teachers who leave the profession before retirement. Reducing pre-retirement teacher attrition could change the projected shortages more than any other single factor.

How are states and districts responding to this exodus? Due to the intense and immediate necessity to fill teaching positions quickly, standards for teachers are being waived in some of the states and districts where the need for new teachers is most severe. Many of the candidates being recruited to triage this shortage may not have strong training, and are likely to face challenges that feel insurmountable. Students suffer as new teachers struggle to overcome a steep learning curve. We understand the dire need to fill these positions rapidly, but let’s acknowledge the result if we leave these teachers to struggle. If left without support of experienced colleagues in the form of induction and ongoing coaching, these teachers will do what many other new teachers do — leave the profession and exacerbate the teacher shortage.

At New Teacher Center, we believe this challenge is one that can be overcome, but only if we address the root causes. Quick fix solutions ignore the core issues that caused the shortage. Our students deserve great teachers.

We have created “Change Maker #2: Resolve the Teacher Shortage,” a guide for district leaders that includes NTC’s 5-point plan for ending the teacher shortage for good, with key actions identified that can help districts resolve root causes locally. It’s one of the weekly “Change Makers” my colleagues and I are publishing through mid-December — resources and information that can help you change the odds for students in your school district.

Check back weekly for stories, helpful guides and information.

Get our guide: “Change Maker #2: Resolve the Teacher Shortage”

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