Schools Can't Find Solutions to Teacher Shortage

Options tried so far don't seem promising for learning, experts say
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2022 2:51 PM CDT
Schools Can't Find Solutions to Teacher Shortage
New Mexico Army National Guard Spec. Michael Stockwell helps freshman Aiden Cruz with a geology assignment at Alamogordo High School in February. Dozens of National Guard Army and Air Force troops in New Mexico were brought in to fill in for teachers and staff members.   (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

The scope of the teacher shortage is hard to gauge. No organization or database assembles national figures, the Washington Post reports. Nevada's education association estimated that the state's 17 school districts have about 3,000 open jobs now, with the new school year about to start. A report in January counted 2,040 teaching jobs in Illinois either vacant or held by employees who are not fully qualified. Houston's five largest districts say they have 200 to 1,000 teaching jobs unfilled. In South Carolina, per WLTX, a single district is short 181 teachers, another 154. "I have never seen it this bad," said the executive director of the School Superintendents Association. A series of factors have combined to cause the shortage, experts say, including:

  • Exhaustion: Weariness has set in among teachers, partly because of the strains of the pandemic and low salaries.
  • Culture wars: The enactment of new policies and laws regulating what teachers can say about history, race, racism, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as LGBTQ issues, in the classroom leaves educators believing that many parents and politicians no longer trust them to do their job.
  • Shrinking pool: In the 1970s, more than 200,000 education degrees were being awarded every year, the peak. In 2019, that fell to fewer than 90,000, while degrees in other fields rose. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education attributed part of the drop-off to women having more opportunities in other fields, per the Hill.

"The political situation in the United States, combined with legitimate aftereffects of COVID, has created this shortage," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "This shortage is contrived." Districts have been forced into piecemeal efforts to fill jobs, sending administrators into classrooms, enlarging class size, lowering teacher requirements, putting schools on a four-day week, and bringing college students and veterans without teaching experience into schools. Many of those solutions aren't good for learning. "We know students of all ages suffered steep declines in academic achievement during the pandemic, and now is the time to course-correct those changes," said Danika Mills, a former school therapist. "Instead, I think and fear we may be facing an even bigger decline." (More teachers stories.)

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