- Higher value must be placed on teachers to improve retention as shortages deepen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephanie Burroughs, a K-12 curriculum leader and administrator in Massachusetts, writes in an article for ASCD.
- Burroughs suggests building prep and grading time into teachers' schedules, especially now that pressures created by the pandemic have dramatically increased the length of educators’ workdays. Another retention tool is to guarantee teachers’ student loan debt is forgiven if they stay with a district a certain amount of time.
- To help alleviate bus driver shortages, she suggests offering hiring bonuses, lengthier breaks and overtime for drivers who work both morning and afternoon shifts. Likewise, to attract and retain substitute teachers, Burroughs suggests rethinking how they are hired and used, with long-term substitutes potentially eligible for higher pay rates and regular work that provides predictable employment.
Ultimately, quick fixes won’t be enough to solve educator shortages, Burroughs said. For the long term, she advocates reinventing how education is valued and increasing pay accordingly, adding district leaders should demand budget increases to better compensate teachers and staff.
“Our students deserve equitable access to great teaching and we cannot get there without improving salaries and working conditions,” Burroughs writes.
Teacher shortages were a serious concern as the school year began. According to a data analysis from 20 districts, 18 lacked enough teachers to staff classrooms, leaving thousands of students at a disadvantage. Los Angeles Unified School District had 500 teacher vacancies. Memphis hit a five-year high with 200 openings.
Underscoring the potential impact of shortages, Brown University research from 2017 suggests students learn less when they don't have a permanent teacher at the beginning of the year.
A Learning Policy Institute report issued in March predicted an increase in teacher resignations and retirements this year, putting a strain on the K-12 workforce. The report expected more severe shortages in rural districts and in math and science fields. It also pointed out teacher license testing policies, which have in some states been criticized as exclusionary, and inadequate financial aid to complete preparation programs as contributing to the problem.
Among suggested solutions: improving retention through teacher residency programs, which would make the profession more affordable and attainable. California’s Golden State Teacher Grant Program was also highlighted as an example of how financial supports could help to recruit and retain new teachers.