Bright ideas for tech-savvy educators, right to your inbox

Teacher Shortages in Small School Districts

Thursday, August 21, 2014 -- Scott Lobdell

I have been following a teacher-shortage issue in Oklahoma for the past few months. In Oklahoma, the teacher shortage is such a critical issue that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi, called on the state legislature to act. Barresi was seeking an increase in wages plus other benefits to attract and/or retain good teachers. Her request asked the state to spend more money incentivizing individual teachers to move to rural areas (or wherever the need is strongest) to fill staff gaps.

The issue of teacher shortages is not only an Oklahoma problem but also is a problem for school districts in many states. For example, in the last few years, North Dakota has seen an economic boom in the oil industry, with many families going to where the jobs are. However, this migration has put a strain on the small school districts of western North Dakota and left them with a need for teachers.

How can states solve this issue without breaking the bank?

A lot of solutions have been mentioned to fix the problem of teacher shortages. However, the one thing I did not see mentioned as a solution—that would not only fill the need but also would save the state and local school districts money—is adding virtual education programs. Using virtual education, there would be no need to incentivize teachers to move to where the jobs are. It would allow existing teachers to teach students throughout the state from where they live right now. Implementing this solution alone would save the state and local school districts money. It also would allow teachers to find part-time work with virtual schools without leaving jobs at their current school districts and to use their experience and expertise to help even more students throughout their state.

For the school district, it would be financially beneficial to use a virtual teacher and online curriculum because the district would not have to pay for a new teacher position and benefits; the district would only pay for the cost of the virtual instruction and curriculum. Virtual courses are generally half the cost of running a brick-and-mortar classroom. Although having a teacher in the classroom is extremely important, there are many cases where it’s not feasible to add new teachers, such as rural areas in Oklahoma or North Dakota. Using a virtual program allows districts to utilize a great resource—experienced and professional teaching staff—and to allocate this resource much more wisely. More importantly, the students will have the benefit of these great teachers.

There are other benefits for your students as well:

  • Schools can expand course offerings that a small school district would not be able offer, such as Advanced Placement®, world languages, electives, and career technical education courses.
  • Virtual school partnerships can also help with alternative education for hospital or homebound needs, allowing students to continue their education from home or the hospital.
  • School districts can offer students and parents an alternative program for those students who don’t excel in the traditional classroom. Some students perform better with online courses, when they can work at their own pace without classroom distractions.

With the many challenges that school districts face, it’s important to find other ways to solve issues like teacher shortages. Partnerships with virtual schools, like Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy, can save schools money in the short and long term and can enable states to better allocate their most valuable resource, their teachers. It is a win for the schools, the teachers, and the students. Learn more about a virtual school partnership and ways to use a virtual school in your district.

*Advanced Placement is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.