By Lauren Mouacdie
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education and published in a recent Learning Policy Institute report, there was a marked increase in demand for teachers following the Great Recession, with demand for new teacher hires between 2017and 2018 projected to be 300,000. However, attrition rates for teachers remain at a high 8 percent, a figure exacerbated by a 35 percent decline in enrollments in teacher education programs from 2009 to 2014.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the decreasing number of teachers in today’s workforce continues to disproportionately affect special needs students and students of color, as well as poorer rural and urban communities in which teachers are more likely to be inexperienced or uncertified. Furthermore, state-level differences lead to varied shortage patterns across the country, and subject-area teacher shortages also vary.
State boards of education have continued to keep teacher shortages on their radar. Solutions for responding to the immediate challenges often focus on how to attract new teachers. Since January 2017, 25 states considered action or heard presentations about teacher shortages during state board meetings at least once. Most boards focused on waived or shortened licensure requirements.
In May, Illinois began preliminary discussions on development of policies to address teacher shortages in the state, with superintendents of two districts spearheading the conversation surrounding a recently passed bill that aims to reduce barriers to teacher endorsements.
In Mississippi, the state board is mulling changes to the K-12 Licensure Guidelines in order to establish criteria for a nonrenewable educator license, which allows a candidate a shortened three years instead of five to complete standard teaching requirements if the individual holds a bachelor’s degree and meets additional established standards.
Addressing teacher shortages has also been prominent on the Arkansas State Board of Education’s meeting agendas, with four items in 2017. The state approved a three-year waiver regarding teacher licensure for educators in the Forrest City School District following a presentation in June. June’s minutes also indicated that the board approved one-year waivers for 20 school districts.
Longer term solutions to the teacher shortage dilemma will be needed to improve teacher pipelines: developing, supporting, and advancing effective teachers throughout their careers. Cheryl Reinhart, division director of licensure in Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Educator Effectiveness, explained that assisting school districts in “growing their own teachers” is critical, particularly in disadvantaged communities. “High-minority, high-poverty areas are most impacted [by the shortages],” she said.
By employing “grow your own” methods such as the Gates-funded Opportunity Culture Model, which relies on teacher rotation, technology, and other factors to facilitate the development of educators, Reinhart hopes that teachers will develop leadership skills in the classroom that will ultimately increase their job satisfaction. Arkansas is also implementing new teacher residency and collegiate paraprofessional programs to help overcome attrition problems. Another effective “grow your own” model to consider is Educators Rising, which emphasizes educator leadership by allowing teachers to frame lectures around topics that align with local teaching priorities.
Lauren Mouacdie interned with NASBE in summer 2017.