New Report Rings Alarm Bell on Teacher Shortages

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is out with a new analysis of teacher turnover and its impact on teacher shortages, showing that the nationwide shortfall of 100,000 teachers predicted in last year’s study A Coming Crisis in Teaching? has largely been realized and issuing recommendations to stem the problem before it grows worse.

In the updated report – Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It – Desiree Carver-Thomas and Linda Darling-Hammond share recent data revealing that in just 31 states, 82,000 positions are filled by underqualified teachers and at least 5,000 are unfilled altogether; extrapolated to all states, the total number is likely around 110,000. If current trends persist, they say, we could face an even higher shortfall next year. The shortages are most acute in the fields of special education and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and are disproportionately present in high-poverty and high-minority schools.

Teacher turnover is a key contributor to the shortages, the researchers say. At about 8% annually, it stands at twice the rate of high-achieving nations, such as Finland and Singapore, and has increased from about 5% in the 1990s. Two thirds of the teachers who leave exit for reasons other than retirement, including lack of adequate preparation and mentoring, pressures of test-based accountability, lack of administrative supports, low salaries, and poor teaching conditions. Teachers who enter the profession through alternate routes are 25% more likely to leave the profession than those who have had full preparation. Teachers of color have higher turnover rates than White teachers. In addition, the pipeline looks limited. Teacher preparation programs have experienced a whopping 35% decline in enrollment in the last 5 years.

The LPI report offers recommendations in three areas: compensation, teacher preparation and support, and school leadership. The recommendations for teacher preparation and support are these:

  • Establish high-retention pathways into teaching that serve high-need communities, such as teacher residency programs.
  • Develop “grow your own” teacher preparation programs for hard-to-staff schools recruiting from high school students, paraprofessionals, after-school program staff, and other community members.
  • Provide high-quality mentoring and induction to beginning teachers.

AACTE has long championed initiatives that reflect all of the recommendations, particularly the federal program that funds teacher residency programs, Teacher Quality Partnership grants. Expanding that program would be an excellent start to addressing the challenges outlined in the report.

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant