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Wisconsin School District Employs New Approach to Address Teacher Shortage

The “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

As I have long been reporting, school districts across America are in the midst of a staffing crisis as students across the country return to classrooms for the start of the school year. Several states and districts have turned to long-term or day-to-day substitutes often with little or no teacher training at all to fill vacancies. This week, the Milwaukee Public School District (MSD) announced that in order to address staffing shortages, the district has turned to hiring upwards of 200 teachers from 17 different counties for the new school year. 

A representative from the district spoke about the need for a different approach on recruitment saying in part, “As the shortage became national, everybody was short on teachers; we started to look where we could bring teachers from.”

Yet, even with the new hires, Milwaukee Public Schools still have 211 open teaching positions. This all comes as a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that teacher turnover rates surged in 2023. The report notes that the average teacher turnover rate in Wisconsin from 2009-22 was 11.5%, this year that number jumped to 16%. Additionally, findings from the report suggest that 2023 saw the highest number of public school teachers leaving the classroom all together in Wisconsin since 2012.

Mark Sommerhauser, director of communications at Wisconsin Policy Forum spoke on the findings, saying: “What we do know is that elevated levels of turnover, really high levels of turnover, can be something that can have a detrimental effect for students. And there is a lot of research that does suggest that schools that have schools and districts that have elevated levels of turnover have poor outcomes across a range of outcomes for students.”