School districts all over the nation have been facing a teacher shortage for a few years now, and the COVID-19 pandemic did not make things easier.
65 percent of rural school districts across the nation are facing a shortage of teachers with location being the main factor behind why they are struggling, according to a Frontline Education survey.
The survey also reports that 44 percent of districts that reported shortages have vacancies across multiple grade levels and subjects, which points to a negative trend as in previous years only about 34 percent struggled with teacher shortages for multiple grade levels and subjects.
According to the survey, the most significant shortages for teachers across the board are:
|Teacher/Subject||Districts with shortages|
|Special education teachers||71%|
|Sec. Physical Sciences||26%|
Special education and secondary math teacher shortages have always been prominent looking at previous trends. But substitute teachers and paraprofessionals carry a vital role in school systems as they are roles that provide better access to individuals who are interested in education, and may be currently gaining the education needed to become a teacher.
One surveyor said:
"I think our district could do a better job of attracting and retaining our paraprofessional positions. We could recruit [paraprofessionals] and train them [until they are] well qualified and [receive more pay] so they stick around. Then, many of them do want to get their teacher certification, which [our district] would directly benefit from since they would be familiar with the district and want to stick around. We need to do a better job of ‘growing our own.’”
What is causing this shortage?
With the pandemic and with low compensation rates, these roles are not worth the risk and effort for many individuals at this time.
Turnover and retirement rates are increasing across the nation, and according to an analysis (Goldhaber and Roddy Theobald) that is strange given the circumstances.
Historically the analysis suggests that teachers are less likely to abandon their roles when there are higher rates of unemployment. And, while more tend to leave their positions as the economy recovers, it's usually not substantial.
However, the pandemic poses different environment for professionals to operate in - treatment, workload, and compensation for teachers throughout the pandemic may be what is changing trends.
What works in retaining teachers?
The most effective methods of retaining teachers is with competitive compensation, which means funding, and by partnering with institutions that provide access to young professionals who are interested in education.
Many cities have studied these trends and are implementing strong funding initiatives to retain and better compensate their local teachers.
Here in Central Texas Waco ISD approved a $8.1 million teacher retention plan Thursday, July 15 to combat the national teacher shortage.