National Teacher Shortage Report: Wisconsin is Middle of the Pack

teacher_shortagesThe recently released report, “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.” details that teacher shortages are widespread throughout the United States and are having an impact on educational outcomes.

The report details four main factors driving the shortage: decline in teacher prep program enrollments, school district efforts to return to pre-recession pupil-teacher ratios, increasing student enrollment and higher teacher attrition.

According to the report, after years of teacher layoffs, districts began hiring again as the economy recovered from the Great Recession. Many had difficulty finding qualified teachers for their positions, especially in fields like math and science (40 states significant shortages), special education (severe shortages in 49 states!), and bilingual education/English language development (30 states have a large deficit).

To address shortages, the report suggests states can either increase the attractiveness of teaching (long-term) or lower the standards to become a teacher (short-term). Lawmakers in a number of states have greatly expanded emergency permits to allow hiring of untrained teachers to meet these demands.

The report finds the number of teachers being hired without full preparation to teach, and sometimes without any preparation at all, is increasing, particularly in high-minority, high-poverty districts.  The report also finds that while these efforts may temporarily curb the fear of empty classrooms, they can often exacerbate the problem over the long haul.

The study found large discrepancies from state-to-state due in part to a vast array of teaching conditions. The report found Wisconsin to be in the middle of the pack, scoring above the median on compensation, but significantly below the median on working conditions, teacher qualifications and turnover rating.

The study also found that the accountability pressures put in place under the federal  No Child Left Behind law, which penalizes teachers who cannot maintain or improve test scores, was another common reason for teachers leaving the profession.

The report puts forward four recommendations:

  1. Increase Teacher Compensation/Incentives
  2. Enhance the supply of qualified teachers in shortage fields and locations through targeted training subsidies and high-retention pathways
  3. Improve teacher retention, especially in hard-to-staff schools, by improving mentoring, induction, working conditions, and career development
  4. Develop a national teacher supply market by removing unnecessary state-to-state mobility barriers that can facilitate getting and keeping teachers in the places they are needed over the course of their careers

Read More: WI Public Radio; Alan Borsuk column