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#AACTE20 Panel Takes a Deep Dive into the Teacher Shortage

Teacher Shortage

The national teacher shortage has required all stakeholders to take action. What do we know and what can we do? The Annual Meeting “Addressing the Teacher Shortage” Deeper Dive session brought together a panel of experts to discuss the alarming data on and present strategies to combat this epidemic. The panel consisted of AACTE consultants Jacqueline King and Jane West; Zeke Perez, policy analyst, Education Commission of the States; and AACTE board member Marquita Grenot-Scheyer from the Office of the Chancellor at the California State University System.

Jacqueline Rodriguez, vice president, program and professional learning at AACTE, served as the moderator. She began the session by providing a national overview as it relates to the teacher shortage by highlighting, “As a Nation, we have …

  • A decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs;
  • Significant lack of diversity in our educators: race, ethnicity, gender, identity, disability;
  • High poverty schools which experience disproportionate teacher shortages;
  • Schools with high enrollment of students of color more likely to employ uncertified teachers; and
  • Teacher turnover at a significant high financial cost.

Why are students opting out of teaching?

King presented data depicting three out of four students’ number one reason for not choosing a career in teaching is the pay. Based on the college debt to the career income ratio, there is a significant difference. The national average for teacher pay is $37,000. College affordability and career pay are insufficient, so students are discouraged in pursuing the profession. As a result, educational stakeholders are considering the following:

  • College affordability
  • Teacher compensation
  • Financial literacy, counseling, and debt management
  • TEACH grant and public service loan forgiveness
  • Residency programs and other clinical practice
  • Recruitment and Retention

Some institutions are piloting the use of federal work-study programs. The federal work-study program approach exhibits a lot of potential because it provides the avenue for students to combine general financial aid and employment. This approach allows students to gain a robust clinical experience while working and attending school.

A prospectus on special education

During her presentation, West stressed that there is an increase in students identified as needing special education, but that the decline in teachers is failing to meet the demands of the students. Due to teacher shortages, standards have lowered to meet the needs of the teacher demand. To date, 48 states report a teacher shortage. Between 2005 and 2012, there has been a 17% decline in the number of special education teachers and an increase in special education students from 13% to 14%.

How are states using licensure to combat teacher shortages?

Perez highlighted that in an attempt to address the teacher shortage concerns, states have enacted financial incentive programs. Financial incentives include TEACH grants, loan forgiveness, state scholarships, childcare on campus, and stipends for teaching special education and in high needs fields. Programs include Grow Your Own (GYO) and incentives for increasing diversity (e.g., University of Utah; Tennessee minority teaching fellows program). A unique program is taking place at Bowling Green state University and Portland State University. Both institutions offer dual licensure programs that include special education and general education. Each semester they have clinical practice experience in both special education and general education. This type of approach creates a pipeline to hiring teacher candidates because they have the skillset and the mindset to teach all students.

What are states doing to ensure teacher workforce diversity?

Perez also shared that although the focus is on the supply of teachers, there is also a focus on recruitment and retention efforts to diversify the teacher workforce. It is not common for students, especially students of color, to have a teacher of color. In order to improve diversity in the teacher workforce, we must begin to prioritize teachers of color  by offering financial aid and reaching targeted recruitment programs. Currently, only seven states offer financial incentives for teachers of color.

The learning policy institute released a brief, Teachers of Color: In High Demand and Short Supply, outlining the benefits of diversity in the teacher workforce and other data as it relates to teachers of color.

Marquita Grenot-Scheyer presented a wealth of information on teacher shortages in California and the investments that have been made to address the shortage, including teachers of color, at both the state level and the California State University System level. While the teacher shortage remains chronic in the state, especially in the high needs areas of special education, bilingual education, and STEM fields, she shared that there has a been a slight increase in teaching credentials issued in the state.  

A video recording of the full AACTE 2020 Deeper Dive session, “Addressing the Teacher Shortage”, is available to Annual Meeting attendees at aacte.org. Additional video recordings, including the Closing Keynote Session and all Deeper Dives from the 72nd Annual Meeting may be accessed in the AACTE Resource Library.


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