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In Illinois: Report Shows Educator Workforce Growing but Challenges in the Pipeline Persist

Illinois’ much-publicized teacher shortage crisis actually showed signs of stability and even improvement during the exceptionally challenging COVID-19 pandemic period, a new report from education policy expert Advance Illinois has found. Still, despite encouraging progress, there is much work ahead to ensure there are high-quality, diverse educators in Illinois classrooms and some concerning trends to overcome, the report finds.

At a launch event in October featuring key policy leaders in education, Advance Illinois released its latest in-depth report on one of the most significant challenges facing Illinois public schools: finding more qualified, well-prepared, and diverse teachers and leaders to guide students in every school.

The new report, The State of Our Educator Pipeline 2023: Strengths, Opportunities, and the Early Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, is the follow-up to the group’s 2022 report The State We’re In, an early examination of the impact of the pandemic on Illinois’ education system.

 The new report found:

  • Illinois has more teachers, support staff, and school leaders working in classrooms today than it has in over a decade, calculated both in general and per student
  • The supply of new teachers and principals has gradually increased in recent years, while the supply of new paraprofessionals, one of the state’s largest shortage areas, has declined
  • More educators have stayed in their jobs and in their schools, even during the difficult first two years of the pandemic and given significant challenges with school climate. Whether these gains hold remains to be seen when data from the 2022-2023 school year is made available.
  • Last year, just over half of districts had no teacher vacancies. That said, schools continued to face challenges staffing certain positions—with some of the most severe challenges including paraprofessional positions, special education teaching positions, and bilingual teaching positions.
  • Despite research indicating that teacher diversity benefits all students, racial disparities at every stage of Illinois’ educator pipeline—from recruitment and supply to retention— persist.
  • While the diversity of candidates going into teaching in Illinois is increasing (and Illinois has much greater diversity in its teacher preparation programs than neighboring states), the overall diversity of our teacher workforce continues to lag student diversity by significant margins.
  • Illinois invested many of its federal stimulus (ESSER) dollars in programs to help strengthen and diversify the workforce. As federal funds expire, Illinois will need to continue to make critical investments in the pipeline, ultimately for the sake of students.

Advance Illinois, celebrating its 15th anniversary this fall, has become a leading, bi-partisan education policy and advocacy organization whose work is respected by policymakers and whose input is sought for solutions to the policy challenges facing educators and the students they serve. The group’s other important work includes examinations of early childhood education, higher education, school funding equity, and engaged families to support students. 

The full report is available to read on Advance Illinois’ website.

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