How to Ease Our Nation's Teacher-Shortage Crisis
The nation's kids are back in school, and in timely fashion the Learning Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, education think tank, released several new research reports on one of the biggest challenges in education: our nation's K–12 teacher shortage. The fact is, demand for more teachers is on the rise while supply trends are on a steady decline, with a drop of 35 percent in teacher-education-program enrollments from 2009 to 2014. Making matters worse, 8 percent of our teachers leave the profession each year, almost double the attrition rate in other high-achieving countries.
As a result, too many teachers in our kids' classrooms are unqualified, ill-prepared, and under-compensated. Due to drastic teacher shortages in California, for example, a little over one-third of the credentials and permits issued in the 2014–15 school year were given to unprepared teachers. What does this mean for our kids? Due to lack of financial assistance and rising education costs, teachers are seeking alternative pathways to the profession. These pathways often exclude "observing others teaching, student teaching at least a full semester, receiving feedback, taking courses in teaching methods, learning theory, and selecting instructional materials," according to the Learning Policy Institute's report. Teachers entering the profession underprepared are more likely to negatively influence student outcomes and are two to three times more likely to change careers than those who enter the profession prepared.
If we want the best education for our kids, we need qualified, diverse, happy teachers in our classrooms. The Learning Policy Institute has identified four key factors affecting recruiting and retaining teachers:
- Compensation: Equitable, competitive salaries and incentives, such as child care and loan assistance, that make the profession more affordable.
- Preparation: Teacher-preparation programs that are more affordable through scholarships, loan forgiveness, and apprenticeships.
- Mentoring and induction: Mentorship programs in which teachers have one-on-one coaching, joint planning time, out-of-the-classroom development opportunities, and the option for collaboration among colleagues.
- Teaching conditions: Well-supplied, well-maintained, and clean classrooms, as well as adequate administrative support, teacher input, and professional development opportunities.
And to ensure all kids are afforded the education they need to thrive, it is important for our policies in California and across the country to address these critical factors. Common Sense Kids Action has been a strong supporter of several bills aiming at improving teacher preparation and retention in California and is continuing to work with allies such as LPI on next steps.
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