(EDITOR’S NOTE, 5/6/19, 5:59 PM ET: A recent study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) showed that the data on the national teacher shortage is much worse than previously thought. This has been reflected in Grit Post’s on-the-ground coverage of teacher strikes in states like Colorado, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, in which teachers are demanding their state legislatures properly fund public education, lower class sizes, and increase teacher salaries in order to retain the best educators. We’ve included the executive summary of the report, as well as a link to the full report, below.)
The Teacher Shortage Is Real, Large and Growing, and Worse Than We Thought
What this report finds: The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought. When indicators of teacher quality (certification, relevant training, experience, etc.) are taken into account, the shortage is even more acute than currently estimated, with high-poverty schools suffering the most from the shortage of credentialed teachers.
Why it matters: A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.
What we can do about it: Tackle the working conditions and other factors that are prompting teachers to quit and dissuading people from entering the profession, thus making it harder for school districts to retain and attract highly qualified teachers: low pay, a challenging school environment, and weak professional development support and recognition. In addition to tackling these factors for all schools, we must provide extra supports and funding to high-poverty schools, where teacher shortages are even more of a problem.
Emma García joined the Economic Policy Institute in 2013. She specializes in the economics of education and education policy. Follow her on Twitter @emmagg01.
Elaine Weiss is an EPI research associate and the former National Coordinator of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education.