States across the country are struggling to recruit and retain excellent and diverse teachers. The COVID-19 pandemic has made these challenges worse. Approximately one in four teachers indicate a desire to leave the profession and enrollment in educator preparation programs is at an all-time low. For example, in Massachusetts, turnover rates increased by 17 percent (Bacher-Hick, Chi, Orellana, 2022)1. States are looking for short- and long-term solutions to stabilize the teacher labor market.
In June 2022, the Region 1 and Region 2 comprehensive centers convened state teams from the Northeast region to share, learn, and discuss strategies for supporting the educator workforce. States in attendance included Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Representatives from state departments of education identified a state-specific problem of practice that they wanted their state team to focus on during the workshop. Facilitated by regional comprehensive center staff, state leaders engaged in peer-to-peer consultations, during which state teams received feedback, guidance, or recommendations on strategies for addressing issues on their approaches to addressing shortages and learned from other states with similar issues.
Throughout the 2-day convening, several themes emerged from the regional discussions.
Systems for tracking teacher data: To determine how to address teacher shortages, states must first understand that the context of their educator shortage. For example, are the teacher shortages specific to certain content areas, focused in particular schools, or regionally based? This requires data systems to capture supply and demand trends across the phases of the teacher talent pipeline (i.e., high school graduation, teacher preparation completion, licensure, hiring, and 3-year retention) and geographically. Many states lack the legislative authority or capacity to formally collect teacher supply and demand data. States are looking to build robust educator workforce data systems to determine specific needs and identify root causes of shortages. These data include teacher vacancy, attrition, mobility, and retention rates by district and school; number of newly licensed teachers by educator preparation program and content area; and where newly licensed teachers are hired by district. A recent virtual professional learning series shares more about the types of data and includes a handout outlining various types of educator workforce data to collect.
Registered teacher apprenticeships: One strategy to addressing teacher shortages was called out in Secretary Cardona's recent call to action: Registered Apprenticeships. These apprenticeships require connecting with the Department of Labor's Registered Apprenticeship Program to establish and fund teacher apprenticeships. States were intrigued by the innovative strategy to use Department of Labor and American Rescue Plan funds to develop registered apprenticeships in which candidates get hands-on experience teaching with a mentor teacher while simultaneously earning an income. States discussed how implementing a teacher apprenticeship program could contribute to long-term investment in addressing the teacher shortage.
Elevation of the teaching profession: Fifty-four percent of parents say they would not want their child to become a public school teacher. States discussed strategies and brainstormed solutions for ways to elevate the teaching profession to make teaching a more desirable industry. A few states are experimenting with a senior pinning program in which high school students get a special recognition upon graduation. Further nationwide efforts to elevate the teaching profession can be found on this interactive map.
This cross-state convening is only the start between cross-center and cross-state collaboration. We have so much to learn from each other in terms of both successes and challenges. The Region 1 and 2 comprehensive centers will host three virtual professional learning series for the state teams focused on the first theme of educator workforce data. The first session examined the types of data to collect, and the following two sessions will dig into interpreting educator workforce data and making policy decisions informed by data. The centers will reconvene the state teams again next summer to continue the cross-state sharing of strategies and approaches for strengthening the educator workforce.
The contents of this blog were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
1Bacher-Hicks, Andrew, Olivia L. Chi, and Alexis Orellana. (2022). Two Years Later: How COVID-19 has Shaped the Teacher Workforce. (EdWorkingPaper: 22-572). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/t5h7-y366