AACTE Deeper Dive Explores Strategies to Address Shortages, Diversity Gaps
AACTE Media Relations Intern Shardae Proctor, a communications major at Maryland’s Towson University, attended the AACTE Annual Meeting earlier this month. Ed Prep Matters asked her to report on what she learned at one of the Deeper Dive sessions.
Across the country, many schools continue to struggle to staff their classrooms with qualified teachers and to diversify their workforce to more closely match student demographics. To explore the contributing factors and potential solutions to this challenge, the editors of AACTE’s Journal of Teacher Education organized a “Deeper Dive” session at the AACTE Annual Meeting March 1 titled “Filling the High-Quality Teacher Pipeline: Promising Research and Strategies.”
Moderated by journal coeditor Gail Richmond of Michigan State University, the session featured expert presentations as well as audience discussions about teacher shortages, barriers to recruiting and retaining teachers of color, lessons from minority-serving institutions, and related policy issues.
Panelist Richard M. Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, highlighted findings from his research about staffing shortages. He said the main problem is not low production of new teachers but high attrition of practicing ones, not only through retirement but because of turnover related primarily to job dissatisfaction. Schools suffer from a “revolving door” of educators that results in teachers leaving at higher rates than they can be replaced, presenting a challenge akin to filling a leaky bucket. According to the federal Schools and Staffing Survey/Teacher Follow-Up Survey, for example, 343,955 teachers were hired nationwide in 2011, but by the end of the school year, 531,340 teachers left or retired.
Desiree Carver-Thomas, a research and policy analyst with the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), provided an update on nationwide shortage numbers, which have increased in excess of those predicted by the LPI report of 2016. She focused on research into one area of shortage – teachers of color – and cited the particular barriers to recruiting and retaining more teachers of color as the cost of teacher preparation, obstacles to completing college, teacher licensure exams, insufficient preparation, challenging teaching conditions, and school closures. To help solve this complex problem, Carver-Thomas urged states to offer competitive and equitable salaries with forgivable loans and scholarships. Similarly, she encouraged school districts to offer high-quality mentoring and collegial work environments, which increases teachers’ persistence in the classroom.
Saroja R. Warner, director of educator preparation initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), said that in addition to seeking a diverse and qualified cadre of teachers, school districts must ensure that all teachers demonstrate culturally responsive practices. By prioritizing equity throughout their agenda, school districts can build a teacher pipeline that entices, supports, and retains a learner-ready workforce. Warner said CCSSO is taking a systemic approach to support states’ development of more effective data systems and strategies to address shortages as well as teachers’ capacity for culturally responsive practice.
Cassandra Herring, founder and CEO of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, discussed the contributions of the nation’s 253 minority-serving institutions with educator preparation programs and their role in diversifying the teacher workforce. The lack of educator diversity in American classrooms perpetuates inequity and undermines student learning, she said, noting that although more than half of students now are non-White, over 40% of U.S. schools don’t have even a single teacher of color. Herring recommended that in order to close the diversity gap, both federal and state departments of education should invest in and support high-quality teacher education programs at minority-serving institutions, which already produce a large share of the nation’s teachers.
In the second half of the session, the audience had an opportunity for discussion with both panelists and peers around their tables. Many attendees expressed concerns with deterrents such as the onerous credential process, Praxis exams, internship requirements, transportation to various school districts, costs, and lack of mentorship. During the discussion, one attendee stated that his first and only African American teacher was in high school. He had not contemplated joining the profession because he had no point of reference. Certainly, I could relate. Growing up in Baltimore City, African American teachers were far and few between. Although 90% of the students at my elementary and middle school were African American, the vast majority of educators were Caucasian.
Evidently, the issue of closing the diversity gap is complex. Like patching the leaky bucket, it requires a commitment from top to bottom in order to diversify the teacher candidate pool and improve retention of those teachers we already have. Doing so will encourage more students of color to follow their teaching passion. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see.