Every day, we see stories about teachers who are hanging on by a thread, and we hear stories from teachers who can confirm the same and who are, worse yet, actively seeking other opportunities and will leave their careers in education. It’s not that they don’t want to be teachers, but the challenges of these past few years – on top of the many other pressures teachers face in the classrooms – have become insurmountable for some. We need to look at both how to better support educators and reduce attrition as well as look at how the education system can change to accommodate the drop in availability.
Teacher Shortages Are Growing
Throughout the country, the number of people entering the teaching profession is dropping significantly. According to the National Center for Education, education majors accounted for more than 10% of the degree candidates in 1990-1991. That number fell to 4.2% in the 2018-2019 school year. The pandemic has reduced those numbers even further. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are teacher shortages in nearly every state for nearly every subject. A quickly generated report on general math resulted in a nine page list of teacher shortages from Wyoming to Puerto Rico.
Supporting Teachers More Effectively
Teacher turnover is damaging to students. According to research by Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin, and Jeffrey C. Schiman, the following impacts occur:
- Teacher turnover negatively affects achievement despite adverse selection of leavers.
- Experience loss and grade reassignment account for the negative turnover effects.
- Negative turnover effects are concentrated in lower-achievement schools.
Reducing teacher attrition, then, has a direct impact on student success.
There are a number of ways we can support our teachers more effectively:
Invest in educators. Increase salaries and offer additional pay when they’re forced to manage both in-class and online students. Pay off their student loans. Cover the costs of all of their supplies; don’t make them beg the internet community to “clear the lists.”
Listen to educators. Listen to your teachers – at the school level, the district level, the state level, and the federal level. Put teachers on the committees that make decisions about policy, health, safety, and, yes, curriculum.
Provide tools for educators. Invest in technology that makes it easier for teachers to do their jobs. This means that at the state and national levels, governments need to free their budgets to invest in equity – broadband for every household, for example. At the district level, districts need to invest in smart technology that makes it easier for teachers to manage not just their teaching responsibilities but all of the other tasks they have, such as SPED reporting and SEL.
Addressing the Tech Skills Gap
There’s a huge tech skills gap. Our partners at Global Grid for Learning have identified some of the risks of not addressing this gap and the threat it represents to our economic stability:
- Our ability to compete globally could be threatened.
- Ransomware and phishing attacks are growing more sophisticated, resulting in the need for technically capable workers to thwart the threats to our schools, infrastructures, and businesses.
- As AI, AR, and VR become commonplace in retail, education, healthcare, and other industries, the demand for technically proficient workers will continue to grow.
Radically Alter the Education System
It’s time for an academic overhaul. We’ve been using the same basic education system for more than a century, and we’re not keeping up. Larry Ferlazzo explores this in his two-part series on Futures Thinking. We need to change how we assess, what we teach, and how we prepare students for the workforce of the future. Lumen™ Touch is at the forefront of the education revolution. What do you want to see for the future of teaching?