Two weeks ago, prior to taking time away for the 100th convening of the NEA Representative Assembly, I wrote in this space about the increase in the number of teachers nationally who, due to pandemic related challenges, have chosen to leave the profession earlier than they had planned.
This phenomenon coupled with a decrease in the number of young people choosing education as their profession, has exacerbated the shortage of teachers nationwide. What was once believed to be a recruitment and retention issue has morphed into a legitimate teacher shortage in areas of our state and country.
Having outlined the problem, I mentioned that I would share with you some policies and practices that may mitigate the teacher exodus. These were developed by the Learning Policy Institute with minor editorializing by me:
- Provide service scholarships and loan forgiveness programs to attract prospective teachers to the profession and to areas with the greatest shortages. I would add that consideration be given to teachers who accept positions in geographic hardship areas, as well as to those teaching hard to fill positions.
- Develop teacher residency programs that allow teacher candidates to work in paid apprenticeships in hard to fill and geographically hard to fill areas.
- Create “Grow Your Own” pathways for communities to support talented community members as they matriculate through teacher preparation.
- Invest in high quality mentoring and induction programs using ESSA Title II dollars and competitive grants.
- Improve teacher working conditions by investing in the development of high-quality principals who embrace shared decision making.
- Allow time for greater staff collaboration and embrace thoughtful and meaningful professional development.
- Increase teacher salaries substantially and quit pretending that salary and benefits are not vital components in recruiting and retaining exceptional teaching candidates to the profession. No one gets to their profession without going through our profession, so let us step up and guarantee that teacher compensation is commensurate to the vital role teachers play in shaping our future.