A new report from the Center of American Progress takes a closer look at the teacher shortage issue occurring across the United States and offers a series of recommendations for how to better handle the situation.
The report, “Educator Pipeline at Risk: Teacher Labor Markets After the Great Recession,” suggests that, as was seen in the fall of 2015, the United States is dealing with a shortage of teachers in classrooms across the country. While some say the shortage is a result of poor planning, the recovering economy, or high teacher attrition rates as a result of low teacher morale from new education reforms, the authors state that little empirical evidence is available to pinpoint a cause.
However, the US Department of Education reports that teacher preparation programs, both traditional and those that offer alternative certificate pathways, are producing enough teachers to meet the demand across the nation. It is estimated that this will continue for a number of years.
Despite this, the authors argue that teacher labor markets are not national, but instead teachers are more likely to look for employment at a school near where they received their training and hold accreditation. This means that an increase in demand for teachers in one state does not mean that teachers elsewhere will be willing to move across state lines.
In addition, the authors state that looking at teacher shortages as a whole does not show which subject areas typically fall short in the number of teachers available, which include science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and special education.
At the same time, enrollment in teacher preparation programs has seen a steady drop since 2009. Authors suggest that this means educators, policymakers, and education stakeholders should not only be looking at evaluating teaching effectiveness and ensuring that disadvantaged students have access to qualified educators, but also the overall strength of the teacher pipeline.
The report examines the reasons for decline in enrollment in such programs, finding that educator job losses due to the Great Recession resulted in a drop in interest in teaching. Other factors included a drop in the average teacher salary as well as the new trend of “last in, first out” employment decisions.
Previous research found that choosing a college major is affected by employment stability and earnings. In all, one-third of the teachers surveyed in 2012 said they did not feel that their job was secure, in comparison with just 8% in 2006. A separate survey found that job stability and current job openings in the field influenced profession choice, particularly for millennials.
The authors had a number of recommendations to make in order to prevent any further decline in teacher preparation programs. These suggestions include an increase in teacher compensation, putting an end to seniority-based layoff policies, and offering local labor market information to prospective teachers. In addition, they suggest that states and school districts work to close the compensation gap between teachers and other professionals through a method like raising state or local taxes, or having districts adopt a new model that supports the restructure of existing budgets to pay teachers more and offer additional opportunities for advancement.